Supreme Court takes 1st patent case of term, and plaintiffs could benefit

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In 2012, 15-employee Halo Electronics won a patent case against Pulse Electronics, a much larger competitor it accused of copying its technology. The company and its lawyers savored the victory with its David v. Goliath overtones. Halo’s victory ended in disappointment, though, when it was able to get just $1.5 million from a competitor that was selling $39 million worth of infringing products per year by 2007, the year the lawsuit was filed.

Now, Halo’s demands for better compensation will get another look. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics along with Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer Inc., a medical device case hinging on the same damages issues. So far, they’re the only two patent cases the high court has agreed to hear this term.

A string of Supreme Court patent decisions over the past several years has gone generally in favor of defendants, making it harder for patent holders to win cases and collect large damages. At the same time, the Supreme Court has upended precedents set at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals. In Pulse Electronics and Stryker Corp., the Federal Circuit made decisions that favor defendants. Will this be the year that patent plaintiffs get a helping hand from the nation’s highest court?

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