Listed Assignee Sufficiently Identifies Owner for Infringement Notification Letter
In U.S. Philips Corporation v. Iwasaki Electric Company LTD. (November 2, 2007), the Federal Circuit held that "when the information printed on the patent is correct, it is enough to put an accused infringer on notice of the patentee’s identity" for an infringement notification letter. According to the opinion by Circuit Judge Linn:
Iwasaki argued before the district court and reiterates here that the Rolfes letter was deficient under Lans because it was not sent by, and did not reference, the patent owner U.S. Philips. The district court held in Iwasaki’s favor on both of these grounds. We disagree. Lans is distinguishable and does not support Iwasaki’s position. First, unlike the facts in Lans, the front page of the ’181 patent, which was enclosed with the Rolfes letter, correctly identifies "U.S. Philips Corporation, New York, N.Y." as the assignee. Although the assignation printed on the face of a patent is not a conclusive indication of the patent’s current ownership, we hold that when the information printed on the patent is correct, it is enough to put an accused infringer on notice of the patentee’s identity. Second, although the Rolfes letter did not purport to come from U.S. Philips Corporation, it is undisputed that Philips International B.V. had the ultimate responsibility for licensing and enforcement of the ’181 patent. Thus, the reasons we articulated in Lans for strictly enforcing the notice requirement were all fulfilled: Philips International B.V.—the sender of the letter—was the party "to contact . . . about an amicable and early resolution of the potential dispute," "to consult with . . . about design changes to avoid infringement," and with whom "to negotiate a valid license." Lans, 252 F.3d at 1327. Under the facts of this case, the Rolfes letter constituted notice under § 287(a), and Iwasaki is liable for any acts of infringement that U.S. Philips can demonstrate took place after the June 7, 2000, date of the letter. The district court’s contrary ruling is reversed.