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Understanding the types of patent infringement

When people work hard to develop a product or idea, it rightfully belongs to them. For that reason, there are laws in place to protect their work

For those who believe that others are infringing on their rights to the patent, they have possible recourse. It is important that they understand the type of infringement they are dealing with.


As the name indicates, willful infringement occurs when parties utilize the patented products or ideas of other parties. With such a direct nature, some may think that such cases are easy to win; however, this is not always the case.

Direct and indirect

Direct and indirect infringement fall under willful infringement in that they utilize the patent of another party without permission. However, in the case of direct infringement, the party may not be aware of the conflict. When parties do not commit the infringement themselves, but rather help with or encourage such actions, it is indirect infringement.


Induced infringement occurs when parties convince others to construct infringing products. Many consider it related to indirect infringement, though inducing is more deliberate. 


If a party provides a part that helps to create the infringing product, the party may be guilty of contributory infringement. However, this is only the case if the product does not serve any other reasonable purpose.


A literal infringement occurs when the text of the patent and the infringing product directly correlate. In such cases, documentation is critical.

Doctrine of equivalents

In short, the doctrine of equivalents states that if a party creates a product that does the same thing in the same way as a patented product, and produces the same result, the courts may find it to be infringement. Even if the new product is more efficient than the original patent, it is still an infringing offense.

By being aware of these different types of patent infringements, patent holders may make an informed decision on how to proceed in protecting their patents. For more clarity and to continue with the process, it may be beneficial to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.

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