Potential For Harm: Indemnity Agreements and Willfulness Determinations

Patent indemnification agreements, common in asset purchases, mergers and acquisitions, manufacturing, and patent licensing agreements, reduce the possibility of liability should a third party later assert its patent against the asset purchaser or licensee. However, entering into such agreements to mitigate risk can actually increase exposure. During the damages stage of patent infringement lawsuits plaintiffs often seek, with varying success, to bring in evidence of the existence of a defendant’s indemnification agreement to show that defendant knew of the patent and committed willful infringement. Thus, the very vehicle used to shift the risk of monetary liability can sometimes itself be used as a mechanism to enhance damage awards.