Patent law dispute arises over inflatable heart

Glenn W. Peterson

California inventors often find inspiration from other people’s products. Perhaps they find a way to improve upon a design or make one of their own that may be similar, but still unique enough to make it unique. These inventors need to use caution, however, because they could end up violating patent law if their designs come close enough to be considered infringement on someone else’s patent.

For example, a company called Medical Inflatable Exhibits Inc. recently filed a lawsuit against Sanford Health claiming that the company infringed on its patents regarding a large inflatable heart. MIE patented its design back in 2014 and 2015. It had trademarked the design back in 2010 when it debuted the exhibit.

The company claims that Sanford Health began using its own inflatable heart around 2013, according to Sanford Health marketing material cited in the lawsuit. MIE claims that the health system only began using its large inflatable heart after seeing MIE’s version. In 2017, MIE attempted to resolve the alleged infringement of both patent and trademark law by contacting Sanford Health. The company claims that the health system failed to stop using the exhibit, but later deconstructed it, ostensibly because Sanford Health knew it was violating MIE’s rights.

This type of patent law dispute happens more often than anyone would like to admit. When someone comes up with a good idea, others will want to capitalize on it. The trick is to make sure that the original patent holder receives the credit and payment deserved. California entrepreneurs should not shy away from protecting their rights. Doing so may require legal action in order to preserve the patent holder’s rights, especially if more amicable attempts at resolving the issue fail.