The German Federal Supreme Court decides about damage claims in a contributory infringement case as well as the transfer of the patent during infringement proceedings

In a decision of May 7, 2013 (“Fräsverfahren”; X ZR 69/11) the German Federal Supreme Court has annihilated the decision of the Higher Regional Court of Munich and referred the case back. A contributory infringement was committed by offering means for the implementation of the invention. However, the patentee has had no evidence that a direct infringement committed by a third party by actually using the offered means in a patent infringing manner has in fact taken place. The Higher Regional Court of Munich has denied the patentee’s claims for an accounting and the declaratory action stating that the contributory infringer is in principle liable for damages. However, the German Federal Supreme Court found that in general even only one contributory infringement committed by offering such means is sufficient to adjudge these claims. Moreover, the German Federal Supreme Court decision is concerned with the question of how to procedurally treat the case in which a patent is transferred during infringement proceedings before registration of such transfer in the patent register. As long as a transfer of a patent is not registered, only the previously registered patentee is entitled to claim patent infringement. However, this registration is not decisive for the question of who, according to the material law, is the holder of the claims. Consequently, a previous patentee, who is still registered as the owner, but has in fact previously transferred the patent and the claims resulting thereof, has to adapt the claim request in a way that the claims are to be fulfilled vis-à-vis the new and actual owner.