Technically when someone manufactures or sells an item that uses patented technology that person would be in infringement of the patent. If patent infringement does occur, the unauthorized user may receive a cease-and-desist letter by the owner of the patent. The patent owner might be seeking an order to stop the unauthorized user from manufacturing or selling the item that contains the patented technology and they may also be seeking damages and restitution, which can be very costly.
Patents are usually only valid in the country where they are registered, mainly because they are very difficult to enforce on a worldwide scale. If a patent has been filed within the US, American companies or persons are prohibited from using the patented technology in their products, unless of course they have permission from the patent owner in the form of a licence. However, a company or person from another country may be able to use the patented technology in their own products as long as the products stay within their own country. The moment when these products begin to be exported, especially to the country where the patent originates, is when patent infringement accusations begin to occur, as can be seen in Kodak's recent alleged patent infringement by Canada's Research In Motion Ltd (RIM.TO), maker of BlackBerry smartphones.
Patent infringement is a serious accusation and can end up costing you and your company a lot of money in legal fees, damages and restitution. The unfortunate thing about patent infringement is that it can happen by accident, and commonly does. If you have been accused of patent infringement and have recently received a cease-and-desist letter the following 5 steps should be taken care of right away:
#1 - The very first thing you need to do is to find out what the patent number of the technology is that you have been accused of infringing upon.
#2 - After you have acquired the patent number check to make sure that the patent is actually properly registered.
#3 - The next step is to confirm if the person or company that sent the cease-and-desist notice is actually the registered owner of the patent.
#4 - If everything checks out you should ask for a copy of the patent specifications so you can study them in detail.
#5 - If you determine that the patent owner actually has a legitimate case against you, you should either change the technology of your product or attempt to procure a license from the patent owner.
If you don't want to go through the hassle of being sent a cease-and-desist letter you have the option to make sure you don't infringe on a patent from the very beginning of your product research. Although it is very time consuming, especially in the beginning stages of product development, to research every aspect of your technology looking for potential patents that you might infringe, it may be worth it in the long run. That is of course if you have the resources, both time and money, to spend. You may even be able to hire a professional to do the work for you.