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Patent protection and enforcement
Patent holders are responsible for identifying cases of infringement and enforcing their own rights. If you own a patent, you should pay close attention to the market, to competing products and services, and to any possible unlawful use of your patented invention.
What is patent infringement?
Patent infringement happens when a third party uses, sells, manufactures or imports patented products or technology without the permission from the patent owner. For infringement to occur, the prohibited activity also has to happen:
- while the patent is valid
- within the country where the patent is in force
If you have a valid patent and suspect that someone stole or copied your invention, you can bring an enforcement action in court to prevent future infringement and/or seek damages.
Resolving patent disputes out of court
Many cases of infringement occur unintentionally. If you suspect infringement, it may be worth taking a considered approach to resolve the issues amicably or settle out of court. You can:
- send a cease-and-desist letter to the infringing party outlining your legal position
- negotiate a licensing agreement - see how to license a patent
An IP adviser or a patent attorney can help you analyse the situation and suggest the best course of action for resolving patent disputes.
If you are unable to settle the issue informally, there are two alternatives available:
- mediation - the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) offers IP mediation services
- patent opinion service - the IPO can issue an impartial opinion on validity or infringement of patents
Although the opinion is not binding, it can help to resolve issues without going to court. Read about the patent opinions service.
Patent infringement action
If you are unable to reach an agreement out of court, you can try to resolve disputes through civil law litigation. This should usually be a last resort. Litigation costs can be prohibitively high and you will have the burden of proving infringement.
There are no specialised patent courts in Northern Ireland. To initiate legal proceedings, you can file a claim either through the IPO or through the Chancery Division of the High Court in Northern Ireland (if your claim is complex or valuable). You can file some type of proceedings only through one or the other.
Find out how to file proceedings at the IPO.
Remedies for patent infringement
Successful patent enforcement action usually results in one of two legal remedies:
- an injunction to stop infringing activities
- monetary damages award which can be substantial
The court will typically expect you to have tried alternative means of dispute resolution before pursuing litigation. Read more about patent infringement.
Bringing an action for patent infringement is complicated. If you need to enforce your patent rights, you should seek professional or legal assistance. Find a patent attorney near you.