Jenner & Block

Client Advisory: Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A.

On May 31, 2011 the Supreme Court handed down a patent decision applying the doctrine of “willful blindness” in a manner that could have substantial and positive implications for intellectual property plaintiffs.  The case is Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., --- U.S. --- (2011).  The specific issue in Global-Tech was what a plaintiff needs to show in order to prove that a defendant “actively induce[d] infringement of a patent” within the meaning of 35 USC § 271(b).  In answering that question, the Court held that “willful blindness” to infringement satisfies the requirement of “actual knowledge” of infringement.  The Court’s confirmation that willful blindness is actual knowledge is potentially relevant in a variety of contexts.  In particular, it may limit copyright defenses under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984), which turn in part on whether the defendant has actual knowledge of infringement.