Federal Circuit Clarifies Standard for Finding Willful Infringement

In SRI Int’l, Inc. v. Cisco Sys., Case Nos. 20-1685, 2020-1704 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 28, 2021), the Federal Circuit held, in a second appeal, that Cisco willfully infringed SRI’s asserted patent claims based on conduct that met a standard of “deliberate or intentional infringement”.  The case began with a jury trial that found Cisco to have willfully infringed and included an award of enhanced damages.  In a first appeal to the Federal Circuit, those findings were vacated and the case was remanded.  When the case was considered by the district court a second time, it held that Cisco did not willfully infringe and suggested that this different outcome rested on willfulness requiring “wanton, malicious and bad-faith behavior”.  In the second appeal, the Federal Circuit clarified that, consistent with Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics, 136 S. Ct. 1923 (2016), willful infringement “requires a jury to find no more than deliberate or intentional infringement,” while the sort of conduct that warrants enhanced damages, quoting Halo, “has been variously described in our cases as willful, wanton, malicious, bad-faith, deliberate” and other similar conduct.  On the facts in the case at issue, the Federal Circuit found that, during a time period when Cisco was aware of SRI’s patents, Cisco’s invalidity defenses were unreasonable, it did not have any reasonable basis for non-infringement and it did not challenge the jury’s finding that it induced infringement.  The Court reasoned that this combination of factors provided sufficient support for the jury’s finding of willful infringement.  Further, the Federal Circuit also reinstated enhanced damages finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding enhanced damages in the first instance based on Cisco’s litigation conduct and its results at summary judgment in the district court proceedings, among other reasons.  

A link to the decision is here: https://cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions-orders/20-1685.OPINION.9-28-2021_1841166.pdf