By: Ian Kecskes
Patent holders have the right to exclude others from their patented technology, including the U.S. government. Patent holders are given a cause of action against infringers; 28 U.S.C. § 1498 gives patent holders a cause of action against the government. § 1498 entitles the patent holder to the costs of the infringement and, if the government is not substantially justified, the costs of litigation. Recently, in Hitkansut LLC v. United States, the United States Federal Claims Court held that, when evaluating whether the government was substantially justified, the court can evaluate the prelitigation conduct, including the nature of the infringement itself. This blog will examine the underlying yet significant ramifications of this decision. Because of the incredibly high costs of patent litigation, the government can easily abuse this system. Patent holders will be more reluctant to bring a claim and risk spending significantly more on litigation costs than what the patent is worth. Ultimately though, since there has not been a significant change in government infringement since § 1498 was expanded, it is unclear how significant of an impact Hitkansut will have.