A patent lawsuit refers to litigation that arises from the potential violation of an intellectual patent. Patents protect inventions and ideas for physical items. They are a form of intellectual property protection.
Within the United States and many other countries, intellectual property is protected. There are several different laws that provide this protection. Copyright law protects original works of authorship that have no purpose other than as art. Trademarks protect identifying marks, and patents protect ideas for the creation of a tangible item.
Patents are very common in certain fields. Technology patents exist to protect programming code, software structures or ideas for a given piece of structure. Microsoft has a patent on the Windows XP operating system, for example, while Apple Computer has a patent on the technology that makes the iPod work. These patents are very valuable, since if someone else just came along and copied the iPod exactly and produced their own iPods, this could cost Apple sales and potentially millions of dollars.
Patents are also common in the drug field. When a formula is created for a new drug, millions of dollars are often spent on the creation of that formula. The patent then prevents other companies from simply copying the formula once it is proven to be a success. This allows the individual or corporation who discovered the drug to financially benefit from being the one with the exclusive right to sell it.
A patent lawsuit occurs when someone believes that his patent was violated. In other words, the individual bringing the patent lawsuit has reason to suspect that someone is using the formula, design and structure that he came up with to produce that given product or item without permission. The person who owns the patent thus claims that he is being damaged by the other party's improper use of the patented idea.
In a patent lawsuit, the person bringing the suit must prove that the idea is substantially the same. For example, the inventor of the iPod could stop someone from making the exact item, but could not legally preclude someone from making any type of MP3 player if that player used a different technology. If someone copied the iPod, on the other hand, the person bringing the patent lawsuit would simply have to demonstrate that he owned the exclusive rights to that technology and that someone else was improperly violating those rights by stealing the idea.