The use of technology is now a common practice among primary schools in Singapore. This is an encouraging development as technology complements what is taught in the classroom and raises the learning capacity of the student. However, with technology comes the risk of patent infringement. Schools must learn about this important area to prepare themselves for possible legal issues. In this particular article, we will talk about how to handle patent notification letters.
Patent registration vs patent granted
Before getting into patent notification, it is useful to differentiate between patent registration and patent granted. Registration concerns only the act of registering for a patent and has no power to convict anyone of infringement. If a school receives notification of a patent pending, it means there is no formal patent being created yet and there is no legal implication involving any infringement.
What is a patent notification letter?
Typically, issuers of patent notification do so as a defensive business tactic in face of competition. In such cases, schools might receive a patent notice, which is ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from an infringement. A notice serves only for information, alerting the school of any patent rights the issuer of the letter possess. Its purpose is to prevent any ignorance claims that may later be made if there is a real patent infringement case.
Under Singapore patent law, false accusation of patent infringement is a serious offense. This is why most companies only serve patent notification because an actual infringement requires the burden of proof to be provided.
What action can the school take?
If your letter receives a patent notification letter, what should you do?
- First, stay calm! As mentioned, a patent notification letter is meant for your information only. There are no legal implication so you can breath a sign of relieve.
- Second, understand why the letter was issued to your school. This type of letter is usually issued to fend off competition of the issuer so it might be due to new vendors coming into your existing vendor’s business.
- Third, ask for proof of no infringement. In the above scenario case, the best action for a school upon receiving a patent notification letter is to shift the burden of proof to these new vendors. This can be done by asking them to produce a patent letter claiming no patent infringement, which can be accomplished easily by the companies via the engagement for a IP law firm. Upon producing the ‘no patent infringement’ letter, the school is in a safer position to consider purchases from new vendors.
Patent law is a complex area. This article serves as an introduction and highlights the part where there is the strongest possibility of involving schools. If you are a teacher facing patent related problems, feel free to email me or voice your concern in the comments section below.