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Software patent litigation presents complex issues for attorneys and companies to resolve. One of the leading issues involved in software patent disputes is that of patent infringement. Those who invent software programs aim to protect their inventions through patents. Holding a patent on an invention means that no one else may copy or profit from that invention.
Issues can also arise when individuals secure a patent that is overly broad for their software inventions. An overly broad patent may be invalid, and a court may decide not to uphold it.
Types of Claims in Software Patent Lawsuits
Courts typically defer to leading case precedent to determine the outcome of software patent lawsuits. Individuals may file claims under leading case precedent for software patent cases, such as a Beauregard claim. A Beauregard claim stems from the case of In re Beauregard, 53 F.3d 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1995). A Beauregard claim is asserted to prove that a manufacturer or seller of computer media, such as DVDs or CDs, is a direct infringer of a patent.
Another type of claim that an individual may file is a propagated signal claim. This type of claim is filed when a signal is encoded in an intangible format. A plaintiff may prove this claim by showing that certain data communications have been made through an intangible medium.
The Role of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)
The PTO plays a significant role in providing guidelines that assist judges in interpretation of patent laws for software patent infringement lawsuits. The PTO maintains that plaintiffs may file API/Protocol or Graphical User Interface claims. Factors that an individual will need to consider in filing these claims is who the infringer is, the date and location of the infringement, whether the infringement yielded profits and whether the individual is a contributor or inducer of the infringement.
Direct Infringement of a Software Patent
Proving direct infringement of software patents is more complicated than a patent for other inventions. For software patents, an individual may need to show that there has been a collective infringement of the patent by multiple parties. Courts may find that there has been no infringement of a software patent if a plaintiff cannot prove that a party has practiced all elements of the direct infringement claim.
Asserting a Defense in a Software Patent Infringement Case
Parties that wish to assert a defense in software patent infringement cases will need to prove the defense by clear and convincing evidence at least one year to the filing date of the patent. An individual may file a software patent that is aimed as a defense to the infringement of claims involving a method of doing or conducting business. These claims are governed by section 273 of Title 35. Courts may have different interpretations for concepts like “doing business” and “conducting business” under section 273.
Those who are filing a patent or believe that another individual has infringed a software patent should speak with an attorney who has a specialty in this field. Software patent laws are complex, and a software patent attorney is in the best position to analyze how these laws may be applied to your case.