A patent is an exclusive, publicly recognized right to the use a specific type of invention or idea. Patent litigation results when somebody other than the owner of the patent uses the patented idea or technology. This is referred to as patent infringement, and litigation is the lawsuit that arises from a patent infringement dispute.
The parties involved in patent litigation can be any number of individual people or business entities. Both individuals and businesses can own patents, just as both individuals businesses can infringe on patents.
Winning a patent litigation claim requires proof that the offending party has infringed on the patent. To do this, the patent holder must first show it actually owns the patent rights, and then must show that the offender actually infringed on the patent by using the patent in a restricted manner. The offender will then attempt to prove that the patent is either unenforceable, invalid or was not actually infringed.
Patents are provided by federal law and governed by a federal government agency called the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Accordingly, patent litigation takes place in federal forums including United States District Courts or, if international issues are involved, in the International Trade Commission. Appeals from these courts can eventually make their way to the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals and then, on occasion, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Successful patent litigation can result in various types of relief for the plaintiff. First, the plaintiff can obtain a court order declaring the patent to be valid and declaring that the patent has been infringed. The order will also declare that the offender must immediately stop using the patent. Additionally, the order can include a required payment of money damages to the plaintiff. As is often the case, a court order may not arise if the parties negotiate a settlement agreement before the litigation concludes. The negotiated settlement can include elements similar to what would be in a court order or judgment.