Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tyco Healthcare Group Lp v. biolitec

Lasers are not just for Austin Powers movies anymore. The can be used for removing lesions from animals and people, but if you or your customers want to use Tyco's patented laser method you need to get a license or face a lawsuit for infringement.

There are a couple different kinds of patent infringement, but basically there is: 1) direct infringement (you're using my patent) 2) contributory infringement (you're selling stuff that can only be used to infringe my patent) and 3) induced infringement (you're helping other people infringe my patent). Tyco Healthcare Group Lp v. biolitec deals with contributory and induced infringement.

Think of contributory infringement of a patent like a puzzle party with a bunch of people. You can bring chips, drinks and guac without a problem, but when you bring something that can only be used to be part of the puzzle you infringe the patent. Here, Tyco said that biolitec sold lasers and laser fibers that could only be used to infringe its patents, but the FDA has approved many uses for these lasers beyond the patent scope. Since there are "substantial non-infringing uses" there is no contributory infringement.

Induced infringement is a little easier to prove, instead of exploring non-infringing uses of the product all the plaintiff has to show is that it produced material that encourages a person to infringe the patent. Here, Tyco alleges that biolitec provided an instruction manual for its products that encourages physicians to use Tyco's patented process to perform a procedure. biolitec argued that this is not what its instruction manual said and that physicians would use the product in a non-infringing way. For Judge Maxine Chesney, this is a close enough call to go to the jury.

She granted part of the summary judgment motion relating to some of the contributory infringement claims and denied the rest relating to the induced infringement claims.

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