Maintenance fees must be paid to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to keep a patent in force. If the invention covered by the patent is not in use at the time a maintenance fee becomes due or if the patent owner is short of funds, the patent owner may decide to not pay the fee. Long-term considerations, however, should be factored into the decision to make or not make the payment. The importance of these considerations is demonstrated in the case of In Re: Rembrandt Technologies LP Patent Litigation.
The lawsuit involved nine patents, over three dozen defendants, and ten years of proceedings at the trial court level. The patents, which relate to cable modem technology and over-the-air signals, were originally owned by Paradyne Networks, Inc., and later acquired by Rembrandt Technologies, LLC, and Rembrandt Technologies, LP. The defendants were cable companies located throughout the U.S., and Rembrandt sued them all for patent infringement. As the litigation proceeded, the court issued rulings on how the claims of the various patents should be interpreted. Because these rulings imposed a narrower scope of coverage than Rembrandt was seeking, Rembrandt withdrew all of its infringement claims within the first six years.
The defendants asked the trial court to require Rembrandt to reimburse them...
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