In United States patent law, patent holders must go to the federal courts to enforce their patent rights. Even if the patent is valid and infringed, these courts may exercise their equitable discretion not to enforce the patent if the patentee has engaged in inequitable conduct. The patent applicant has a duty of candor and good faith to the US Patent and Trademark Office when applying for their patent. Breach of this duty constitutes inequitable conduct, which includes the following: (a) failure to submit prior art likely to be deemed relevant; (b) failure to explain references in a foreign language or submit pre-existing full or partial translations of the references; (c) misstatements of fact, including misstatements in affidavits concerning patentability; and (d) mis-description of inventorship.

The party asking the court to decline to enforce the patent, usually the alleged infringer, bears the burden of proving inequitable conduct to the court. This party must show by clear and convincing evidence that the patentee intentionally withheld or misrepresented material information. Proven inequitable conduct in any claim can lead the entire patent to be unenforceable.

當申請專利的時候,申請人/發明人有義務在申請過程中對美國專利商標局維持以誠信的態度來申請。當違反下列幾點的時候,則可能被認定屬"不正當行為":a) 未揭露已知與本發明有關之前案; b) 未解釋已知與本案有關之外國語文件,或是未將部份或全部的翻譯文件揭露; c) 扭曲事實; d) 提供錯誤的發明人資料。



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