Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A. and the Creation of a Flexible Blindness Standard for Induced Patent Infringement

June 9, 2012

When assigning liability in patent infringement cases, courts have often struggled with the determination of what mental state is necessary to hold a defendant liable. In Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., the Supreme Court determined that knowledge is necessary in cases of induced infringement, but tempered the holding by allowing willful blindness to be a substitute for knowledge. This article argues that the flexibility introduced into induced infringement by willful blindness allows courts to implement a new “flexible blindness” standard. This standard will allow courts to make a fact-centered determination of blameworthiness rather than a difficult examination of the defendant’s mental state. In doing so, the assignment of liability will be more reliable and accurate, there will be more deterrence of future acts of induced infringement, and the formal requirement for knowledge will protect innocent parties whose actions aid, but do not induce, infringement.