Under 35 U.S.C. 271(b) “[w]hoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer.” Previously, in order to meet the requirement that one “actively induces”, one generally must have knowledge of the patent in question.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently found (SEB S.A. v. Montgomery Ward & Co., PDF) that deliberate indifference to potential patent rights is equivalent of actual knowledge. To quote:
…a claim for inducement is viable even where the patentee has not produced direct evidence that the accused infringer actually knew of the patent-in-suit. This case shows such an instance. The record contains adequate evidence to support a conclusion that [one of the defendants] deliberately disregarded a known risk that SEB had a protective patent.
I wonder what this means if a company deliberately shields employees from knowledge of pre-existing patents.
[For further discussions see, for example, this link to IPWatchdog.]