Klein & Wilson

Supreme Court to hear patent defense claim involving Cisco

A multi-million dollar lawsuit between California-based Cisco Systems and a competitor has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, after the justices agreed to hear an appeal of a $64 million verdict from earlier on in the case.

The case centers on patent law. Commil USA LLC accuses Cisco of infringing one of its patents on a piece of wireless-transmission technology. Commil won at trial and was awarded a $64 million verdict.

Cisco appealed, arguing that it had a good-faith belief Commil's patent was invalid because the invention behind it was obvious, vague or insufficiently novel. It invoked inducing infringement, an accusation that Commil created the product in question for the purpose of causing another party to violate the patent. Cisco claimed that good-faith beliefs a patent is invalid should be as legitimate a defense as a good-faith belief there was no patent at all.

A federal appeals court agreed with Cisco that it had a legitimate defense and ordered a new trial. Commil appealed that ruling, and the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to hear the case, saying it "may fundamentally change the operating landscape of inducement suits."

The Court is expected to rule on the dispute by June.

Intellectual property disputes may not always reach the top of the judicial system, but in the business world an accusation of a patent or copyright violation can be costly and damaging if proven. A company defending its intellectual property, or one fending off a lawsuit, will need an experienced business law attorney on their side.

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