Enhanced Damages

In the United States infringement of intellectual property rights and antitrust laws may expose the infringer to “enhanced damages” where more substantial damages are paid than normal “actual damages.” In the case of patents, courts may, if they find willful infringement (i.e., infringement with knowledge of the patent and no good faith reason on the infringer’s part to believe that there was no infringement), grant up to three times actual damages based on various factors (three times is not automatic) as well as attorneys’ fees.

However, enhanced damages in US patent cases are in fact rare, representing a tiny fraction of cases, while studies have shown the average enhancement to be about 1.68 in that small minority of cases in which damages are enhanced. Because enhanced damages usually flow from a finding of wilful infringement, it is common for companies who have been accused of patent infringement to obtain a Non-Liability Opinion.

For copyright infringement where the copyrighted work is registered, the ceiling on Statutory Damages amounts are substantially increased from $20,000 to $150,000 (per defendant, per work). In trademark infringement a finding that an infringer used a counterfeit mark can result in treble damages.

Enhanced damages are often referred to as punitive damages or exemplary damages, although they are not strictly the same, since they are statutory in origin. Thus, automatic treble damages exist for certain US antitrust and RICO claims, but not for patent infringement.

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