Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Patent infringers as criminals? Microsoft and Microsoft Word and i4i.

Larry Dignan has a post titled: Examine the patent that made selling Microsoft Word a crime.

IPBiz to Dignan: there are no criminal provisions in the US patent code as to infringement. [but see below]

Dignan is examining an injunction against Microsoft arising from a case brought by i4i:

According to the injunction, Microsoft is enjoined from selling “Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Word 2007, and Microsoft Word products not more than colorably different from Microsoft Word 2003 or Microsoft Word 2007.” Microsoft also can’t offer support or basically use XML.

Dignan is understating in the words: I’m not patent lawyer [sic], but i4i’s patent (Exhibit A in its original complaint) sounds a bit generic.

**An IPBiz reader pointed out that there are criminal provisions in the US patent code, although they are NOT about infringement (as distinct from copyright law). One might refer to the earlier IPBiz post about a certain patent to workers at Oak Ridge.

35 USC 186: Whoever, during the period or periods of time an invention has been ordered to be kept secret and the grant of a patent thereon withheld pursuant to section 181 of this title, shall, with knowledge of such order and without due authorization, willfully publish or disclose or authorize or cause to be published or disclosed the invention, or material information with respect thereto, or whoever willfully, in violation of the provisions of section 184 of this title, shall file or cause or authorize to be filed in any foreign country an application for patent or for the registration of a utility model, industrial design, or model in respect of any invention made in the United States, shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both.

The reader also brought up 18 USC 497 (which is not in the patent code) but which states:

Whoever falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any letters patent granted or purporting to have been granted by the President of the United States; or
Whoever passes, utters, or publishes, or attempts to pass, utter, or publish as genuine, any such letters patent, knowing the same to be forged, counterfeited or falsely altered—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.


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