What are pipeline and pipe dream products? Are they legal? As with all legal matters, the answer depends upon the jurisdiction. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commissions rules about what constitutes a “pipe dream,” which can be anything from an invention to an invention that has commercial viability. If the pipe dream is too far-fetched or seems impractical as an actual product to have any real market value, then it is not likely to meet the criteria for protection under law.
The same is true of many patent applications that seek protection for various Pipe Dream Products.
These may include: computer software, process equipment, machinery, medical devices, home appliances and electronic equipment, car parts, food preparation supplies, clothing and shoe products, toys, electronic components and process resources, and so on. However, if the claim is that such Pipe Dream Products can have some practical value, the United States Patent Office may not necessarily consider it a “pipe dream.” For instance, a new product may be invented even if it did not exist in the prior art at the time the application was filed.
Thus, any damages awarded in a lawsuit against a patent owner for violating a prior patent should be limited to the damages actually awarded, not to a prospective economic benefit.
The only way the patent owner could receive damages in an infringement lawsuit is by gaining a judgment in a civil lawsuit. The damages awarded in such a lawsuit would typically include a non-monetary damage payment, which is the normal measure used in patent infringement lawsuits. Thus, even if the patent applicant’s pipe dream was granted a patent and the product were ever produced, the patent would never be worth anything unless the plaintiff actually succeeded in obtaining a judgment in a lawsuit.
The fact that there is currently such a demand for these types of items demonstrates how much value the average consumer places in the idea of owning a pipe dream.
Consumers who purchase such things often believe that their investments will yield significant monetary rewards. Such individuals naturally believe that the patent they have obtained should enable them to reap the benefits from their pipe dream. If their expectations are not properly formulated in the application, the patent will fail to achieve its claims of value and will, instead, produce a net monetary loss for the plaintiff.
In order to prevent such a result, litigants should first ensure that they are well-prepared before filing their claims. Preparing a proper claim for damages involves identifying all of the relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the creation of the patent and the potential use of the product in the relevant market. A patent examiner will carefully review the merits of any such claims. He or she will also take into account whether the claims are legally distinguishable from those that have been disclosed previously. These considerations are critical in determining the ultimate value of the patent.
Moreover, litigants must also bear in mind that they are not required to prove that the product is unique.
Picking a product from among millions of similar products could result in an interesting case of the “lucky few.” However, even if the final decision is favorable, the cost of damages could still severely restrict the amount of recovery. If the damages awarded are too low, the defendant may simply refuse to accept the judgment as justification for its refusal to further investigate and develop the product. On the other hand, if the final award is too high, a plaintiff could face irreparable harm.
Therefore, it is vital that litigants consider carefully the nature of the underlying patent, the potential damages associated with its development, and the final jury verdict.
Litigation of a pipe dream should only seek to identify an exclusive right to exploit the product, and never attempt to assign a patent to the abstract idea. Further, in most cases, the damages incurred as a result of a successful patenting process will often be recovered from the defendant with a relatively limited expense. Therefore, a plaintiff should be very careful about pursuing damages as a deterrent to defendants.
The decision to file a lawsuit of a pipe dream product should be considered carefully by both parties. There is rarely any easy way to determine whether or not the underlying technology is actually patentable. Therefore, litigants must weigh the merits of their claims with the difficulty of proving such a claim. If the underlying technology is not patentable, then it is likely that damages could be recovered even after a court awards patent protection. This is true even when the underlying product is sold without any intent to sue.