On January 22, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided that a patent owner has the burden of proving infringement in an action filed by a licensee for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement. This case, Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC, 2014 U.S. LEXIS 788 (2014), reversed a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision holding that in such a case, the burden of proof shifts to the licensee to prove it did not infringe.
In 1991, Medtronic and Mirowski entered into a license. Medtronic made medical devices, including cardiac devices, and Mirowski owned patents covering heart simulator implants. The license provided that if Mirowski believed that a new product of Medtronic was covered by the patents, Mirowski would give notice to Medtronic. Medtronic could then choose one of three options: agree to pay royalties for the new product, pay royalties and also challenge Mirowski’s finding of infringement, or not pay royalties, when which would allow Mirowski to terminate the license and sue Medtronic for patent infringement. The parties later modified the license to allow Medtronic to pay royalties into an escrow account if it decided to challenge Mirowski’s finding of infringement, with the winner receiving those royalties.