Intellectual Property

Lawyer Who Spotted Expired Patent on Solo Cup Wins Qui Tam Ruling

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Washington, D.C., patent lawyer Matthew Pequignot did some investigating after spotting patent markings on the lid to his daily cup of coffee and discovered that the patent had actually expired some 20 years before.

Now the lawyer is seeking millions of dollars in damages in a qui tam suit against the lid maker, Solo Cup, that won a favorable ruling in March, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that Pequignot’s suit filed on behalf of the government does not violate the constitutional separation of powers doctrine, the story says. She also ruled the suit satisfied requirements of actual harm because the United States suffered when its laws were broken.

Pequignot filed suit under a qui tam law that allows him to keep half of any damages recovered on behalf of the government.

The U.S. Justice Department is supporting such suits in a separate case filed over Brooks Brothers’ expired patent claim on its “original Adjustolox” bow tie. The department sought to intervene on behalf of the plaintiff after a New York federal judge tossed a qui tam suit on standing grounds.

Pequignot has also filed a similar suit against razor company Gillette, owned by Procter & Gamble Co. Both the Gillette and Solo Cup cases were filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, the National Law Journal reports in a May 12 story. Brinkema is weighing a new motion to dismiss in the Solo case, the NLJ story says.

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