Federal Circuit Holds that Solo’s Marking of Lids after Patent Expiration Did Not Violate False Marking Statute
By Ian B. Brooks – Edited by Matt Gelfand
Pequignot v. Solo Cup Co., No. 2009-1547 (Fed. Cir. June 10, 2010)
On June 10, 2010, the Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which had entered summary judgment in favor of Solo for “false marking” related to Solo’s practice of marking expired patents on its beverage cup lids.
The Federal Circuit held that a product embodying an expired patent is indeed an “unpatented article” under 35 U.S.C. § 292(a), but a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant intended to deceive the public in order to succeed under § 292. The court stated that a rebuttable presumption is created when a plaintiff shows that the defendant knowingly made false statements; a defendant may rebut this presumption if it shows by a preponderance of the evidence that it did not intend to deceive the public. The court also noted that the presumption is weaker in cases where the markings are for expired patents that once covered the marked products. Solo, which had relied on advice of counsel and weighed the high costs of removing the markings, was able to rebut Pequignot’s evidence that it intended to deceive. Finally, the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s construction of “offense” under § 292, which was at odds with its decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co., 590 F.3d 1295 (Fed. Cir. 2009).
Dabney Carr at Virginia IP Law provides an overview of the case. Patently-O and Daily Herald provide background on the case and other cases that have recently been filed claiming violations of § 292. A chart of false marking cases and their status is available at Gray on Claims. (more…)