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When exporting materials becomes infringementOctober 4, 2005

The Federal Circuit recently ruled that a patent holder could obtain damages for infringement when an alleged infringer exports materials used in a patented process, even though the infringing method is ultimately performed outside the United States.The technology at issue was a method for commercially producing ethylene oxide gas. Ethylene oxide is typically used to produce ethylene glycol, which is then used to make such items as polyester fiber, resins, and film. At the trial court, Shell was found to have infringed the method claim of Union Carbide’s patent, but excluded evidence of Shell’s foreign sales of a catalyst used in the process. The district court excluded this on the basis that section 271(f) of the patent statutes, dealing with importing or exporting ‘any component of a patented invention’ did not apply to method claims.The Federal Circuit reversed, citing its recent decision in Eolas Technologies v. Microsoft Corp., where the court held that every component of every form of invention receives protection under

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