By Veena Tripathi. Full text here.
The United States patent system is designed to reward inventors and patent holders who contribute novel, impactful, and non-obvious work. To maintain this system, Congress authorized damages as a remedy for infringed inventions. Whether compensatory or punitive, the system’s main goal is to prevent the proliferation of unwanted “infringing” behavior. Outside of that guidance, there is little definition of what qualifies as egregious behavior, thereby leaving lower courts significant discretion to decide how much to award in damages. Integral to the allocation of damages is the standard by which courts evaluate egregious, or “willful,” behavior. This standard has changed several times over the past few decades. With its 2016 decision in Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics, the Supreme Court provided further guidance to lower courts on how to evaluate claims of infringement. However, critics of Halo argue that the decision did not make a difference in the outcome of cases and the subsequent award of damages. As of yet, there are no comprehensive studies that evaluate the effect of the Halodecision on findings of willfulness and enhanced damages.
This Note fills that void by conducting the first comprehensive empirical study of willfulness and enhanced damages post-Halo. It examines cases from two years before and two years after the Halo decision and asks the question: did Halo matter? Ultimately, the study concludes that findings of willfulness are distinctly different before and after Halo. Additionally, the standard has led to increased findings of enhanced damages. This study concludes by discussing the various implications of the new standard and areas for future research.