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What are the penalties for patent infringement?

When a court or jury determines that someone has infringed another’s patent, the infringer can face several penalties. The general penalty is for the court to award damages to the patent owner, requiring the infringer to pay a certain amount of money to the patent owner.  These damages are made up of several components.

The primary part of financial damages which an infringer will have to pay is money to compensate the inventor for the infringer’s wrongful use of the patented invention. The specific amount, which can be determined by either a jury or the court, is typically calculated by figuring out what the infringer would have had to pay if he had legally licensed the invention, which is known as a royalty rate. Under special circumstances, the court can take this royalty amount and award triple the amount, known as “treble damages.” This is done where the infringer was found to act willfully, that is, knowing there was a patent in existence and infringing anyway. The reason treble damages are awarded, giving the patent owner three times what he is entitled to, is to act as a deterrent to infringers. Otherwise, someone could find out about a patent and infringe thinking that one of two things happens - they do not get caught, or they get caught and simply pay what they would have paid as a royalty anyway. In addition to the money intended to compensate the patent owner, the infringer is also likely to be required to pay interest on the money owed as well as the patent owner’s court costs (not his attorney’s fees but, rather, things like the money spent filing documents with the court).

Finally, separate and apart from any financial award, the court will often issue an injunction, which is an order that the infringer stop infringing the patent and never do so in the future.