Patent Law

Federal Circuit Rules for Lawyer Who Sued Over Expired Bow Tie Patent

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A lawyer who sued Brooks Brothers for selling Adjustolox bow ties with expired patent markings has standing to pursue his qui tam suit, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In a decision (PDF) issued Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled patent lawyer Raymond Stauffer did not have to show he was injured by the false patent mark, according to stories in Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and Law360. The opinion said that federal law recognizes an injury to the United States when companies make false patent claims, and since the government has standing to enforce its own law, Stauffer also has standing as the government’s assignee.

Stauffer filed his suit under a federal patent law that allows “any person” to sue when companies deceive the public with false patent numbers and to split the recovery with the federal government. He is seeking a penalty of $500 for each of tens of thousands of bow ties sold with the false marks.

A lower court had ruled Stauffer lacked standing because he did not allege an actual injury to a Brooks Brothers competitor, the bow-tie market, the economy or the public, Law360 says.

Reuters says false marking suits like Stauffer’s “have become something of a cottage industry in the patent world.” Another lawyer who sought trillions of dollars in damages in a suit over an expired Solo Cup patent lost his case in June when the Federal Circuit ruled he had failed to prove the company intended to deceive the public with the false mark.

That issue remains in Stauffer’s case. The appeals court instructed the lower court to address the merits of the case, including Brooks Brothers’ motion to dismiss claiming Stauffer failed to adequately allege an intent to deceive.

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