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Patent Infringement: Leveraging Opinion Letters to Reduce the Risks of Liability and Enhanced Damages

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
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Conducted on Thursday, January 21, 2021

Recorded event now available

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This CLE course will provide patent counsel with an analysis of the evolving role of attorney opinions in defense of patent infringement claims and the potential use of written opinions of counsel. The panel will also discuss the waiver of the attorney-client privilege and provide best practices for developing opinions of counsel.


The role of opinions of counsel as a defense to willful patent infringement claims was altered significantly by the Supreme Court's decision in Halo Electronics Inc. v. Pulse Electronics Inc. (2016). Following Halo's guidance, more district courts are allowing juries to consider willfulness allegations. Accordingly, consider that asserting counsel's advice as a defense to willful infringement can result in a waiver of privilege.

Liability for induced infringement must be predicated on knowledge of the patent one is alleged to infringe. In Commil USA v. Cisco Systems, the Supreme Court held that a good faith belief in a patent's invalidity could not negate the intent for induced infringement. However, subsequent Federal Circuit case law has made clear that non-infringement opinions have a critical role to play in defense of induced infringement claims. In this context, opinions of counsel can also provide valuable advice and suggestions for design-around options to reduce the risk of infringement.

Listen as our authoritative panel of patent attorneys examines the evolving standard for evaluating (1) willful infringement claims and (2) liability for indirect infringement claims and the use of opinions of counsel to defend against them. The panel will also discuss the potential for and impact of waiver of the privilege in the litigation discovery process and provide best practices for employing opinions of counsel.



  1. Willful infringement, inducement of infringement, and use of opinions of counsel
    1. The "totality of the circumstances" standard for determining willfulness
    2. Importance of competent opinion of counsel in defending against willful infringement allegations and induced infringement claims
    3. Reliance on opinions of counsel
    4. Updating opinions
    5. Recent developments and their impact on how to use opinions
  2. Waiver
    1. Scope of discovery
    2. Privilege waiver for opinion counsel and trial counsel
    3. Privilege waiver for in-house counsel
    4. Other in-house personnel and in-house investigations
    5. Waiver of work product immunity
  3. Court treatment
  4. Best practices for employing opinions of counsel
    1. Implications for an opinion of counsel practice
    2. Rethinking defending against willfulness claims
    3. While, even under Halo, there is no affirmative duty to get an opinion, how to best proceed if monitoring others' patents
    4. When should corporate counsel seek outside opinions to protect themselves from willful infringement claims?
    5. Cost-benefit analysis (cost of single opinion vs. amount at stake in a patent lawsuit)


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What is the practical impact of recent decisions on utilizing opinions of counsel in defense of willful infringement and induced infringement claims?
  • How does the "totality of the circumstances" standard impact legal advice on proactive clearance analysis for product planning and strategic portfolio development?
  • Under what circumstances should corporate counsel seek outside opinions of counsel to protect their client from infringement claims?


Scott, Thomas
Thomas J. Scott, Jr.

Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Personalized Media Communications

Mr. Scott is responsible for the firm’s legal and licensing activities and staff. He formerly chaired the...  |  Read More

Weisbruch, April
April E. Weisbruch

McDermott Will & Emery

Ms. Weisbruch focuses her practice on intellectual property matters, particularly in managing large-scale IP litigation...  |  Read More

Yost, Eleanor
Eleanor M. Yost

Carlton Fields

Ms. Yost represents clients in a broad range of intellectual property matters, including patent and trademark, appeals,...  |  Read More

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