Patent infringement defenses are various and are different in the scope of their applications. For patent owner to consider filing a lawsuit of patent infringement, it is important that he/she and his/her team of patent attorneys be fully aware of the possible defenses the other side may bring into the case. Patent laws and regulations may often be simple to understand at fair glance, however, their applications in actual infringement action lawsuits and litigation can prove to transform the legislation from simple and understandable to confusing and complex.
In certain cases, there aspects of the law that may be used effectively as defense to an infringement case that is not entirely obvious. Such a instance is evident with the repair doctrine, also known as the doctrine of repair and reconstruction. This type of patent infringement defense is typically used or applied when a case of indirect patent infringement or induced patent infringement is introduced.
Repair doctrine also applies to what is considered as a combination patent, where a combination of parts, in their assembled state, create an innovation that is eligible for and granted patent rights. However, when each component is separate, or not part of the completed invention, each part is not patented under the combination patent because of exclusions or ineligibility by proper patent laws. Therefore, the combination patent only protects the completed or assembled combination of those parts.
The patent infringement action arises when a lawful purchaser of a combination patent product or invention uses replacement parts to repair the innovation. Under patent laws, the transaction of sale of the product from the patent owner or licensed party to the purchaser or consumer, it is implied that the right to repair such product is granted, regardless of where or from whom the replacement parts are purchased. In other words, the replacement parts do not need to be purchased from the patent owner or inventor.
This is what is referred to as repair doctrine. Patent infringement does not apply because of the fact that the patent owner does not have exclusive rights to the components of the combination or assembled patented invention; the patent only applies to the finished product. The repair doctrine is extended to also include if such repair or replacement of components actually modifies the original patented product or design. The repair doctrine protects the consumer from direct patent infringement, while concurrently protecting the third party selling the replacement parts from indirect patent infringement.
However, patent infringement can still be applicable if the repair or replacement of the components of a combination patent invention occurs before those components have run their course or have been rendered inoperable. Patent holders and owners have pushed to limit the extent to which repair doctrine can be applied, and is now solely used to refer to worn out or inoperable components. However, in recent years, the idea of repair doctrine only applying to worn out parts or components has been steadily rejected and the idea that any readily replaceable part may be repaired or replaced at any given time, without inducing any kind of patent infringement.