Annals of bounty-hunting: “A recent ruling on an obscure, century-old statute has opened the door for people familiar with the finer points of patent law to sue companies that stamp their products with expired patent numbers.” Washington, D.C. patent attorney Matthew Pequignot “noticed the patent marks on the lid to his daily cup of coffee, did some research and found that the lid’s maker, Solo Cup Co., was continuing to claim patent protections for disposable lids that had expired nearly 20 years ago.” So he’s sued Solo and E.D. Va. federal judge Leonie Brinkema has allowed his case to go forward, ruling that the requisite harm to the government is satisfied because the government’s laws against “false markings” were violated. (A federal judge in New York, however, ruled differently on the harm-to-government issue in a recent case with similar facts.) Pequignot has offered to settle the Solo suit for $9 million and has sued Gillette on similar theories; the bounty-hunting law allows claimants to keep half of the recovery.
Pequignot, for his part, says he does not expect an avalanche of false markings lawsuits, despite the fact that [attorney Raymond] Stauffer and some others have already followed in his footsteps. He said that, even as a patent attorney, it took him many hours of research to be able to file his lawsuit.