A little known statute has become a big headache for patent owners, thanks to a recent . Forest Group Inc. v. Bon Tool Co. held that if a company falsely marks a product as patented, it can be slapped with fines of up to $500 per wrongly marked item. That can add up to a hefty amount if a company produces mass market products--such as razor blades--that happen to list an expired patent number.
The December 2009 Federal Circuit decision overturns a century of judicial rulings that imposed much lower fines for violations of the false marking statute, 35 U.S.C. ? 292. Under a line of cases stretching back to the 1st Circuit's 1910 decision, London v. Everett H. Dunbar Corp., the courts ruled that each incorrectly marked product did not constitute a separate violation of the false marking statute. Instead, a continuous false marking--such as the entire production run of a product--amounted to a single offense.