Out-Law Guide | 08 Aug 2018 | 9:50 am | 3 min. read
This guide is based on UK law. It was last updated in August 2018.
Under section 60(1) of the Patents Act, a patent is infringed if any of the following acts are carried out in the UK without the consent of the proprietor:
These are all acts of 'direct' infringement.
It is also possible to directly infringe a patent by the use of a variant to a patented product or process. This was confirmed by the UK Supreme Court in 2017 in a case between Eli Lilly and Company and Actavis UK Limited and others.
In that case, the court considered variants of cancer drug pemetrexed disodium that stemmed from other salt forms of pemetrexed directly infringed on the patent claimed because they achieved the same result in substantially the same way.
The court reached that conclusion after reformulating the so-called 'Improver' questions as follows:
Indirect patent infringement
Section 60(2) of the Patents Act defines acts which may not directly involve patented products or processes but would nevertheless be considered infringing acts. Acts of 'indirect' infringement occur when, without the consent of the proprietor, a person (or company):
In February 2018, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case between Warner-Lambert Company LLC and Generics (UK) Ltd t/a Mylan and another in relation to infringement of a second medical use claim, detailed in a Swiss claim form, by a product sold with the infringing indication carved out.
Issues of both direct and indirect infringement have been argued in the case to date, as well as what steps in addition to carving out may be needed to avoid infringement.
A decision in the case is awaited. It is not yet clear whether section 60 of the Patents Act will need to be amended to deal with such issues/exemptions or if the Supreme Court will give clear guidance on what the word 'for' means in 'suitable for' in the context of indirect infringement in such circumstances.
There is also a common-law offence of contributory infringement. Under the common law there are two forms of contributory infringement, one where it can be shown that a party assisted an act of direct or indirect infringement as part of a 'common design' with the infringer. The second is where a person can be found liable under common law, for inducing or procuring someone else to infringe a patent.