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Suppose I developed a novel video compression algorithm that compresses video in a higher rate than commonly seen method, and I patented it. Now I want to discover whether some other companies might be compressing video with my method without licensing my patent, but I don't really know how.

If I see a video file from a company that has the similar compression rate, I can only suspect that this company infringes. If I contact the company, they will likely deny it and say they are compressing the video with their own method, and it's impossible for me to request them to show me the source code to see what algorithm they are exactly using.

How is patent infringement usually being discovered?

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Unfortunately, in this case you would have to take the infringing company to court and force them to disclose the source code.

Intellectual Property litigation is often described as "ruinously expensive", which is why most cases reach some settlement to avoid protracted court fights. Although as an individual, it would be difficult to initiate and maintain such litigation, if the process is valuable and the infringing party has substantial assets, there will very likely be attorneys willing to work on a contingency basis.


Note: Infringement is only possible against a granted patent. (It typically takes 3-5 years for a non-provisional Patent application to get a grant in the US. Accelerated examination is available in the US.) However, if the patent is ultimately granted, you can sue for damages retroactively, which is to say damages incurred while the ultimately granted patent was still in review, i.e. "Patent Pending".

It is also your responsibility to make your patent status known, typically by putting a notice on your product.

  • Thanks for the answer. Agreed this is too hard to enforce. If I take them to court and my guess is wrong that will be disastrous. – user3667089 Sep 22 '17 at 21:51
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    @user3667089 It won't be ruinous to you if the attorneys are working on a contingency basis, but they'd only take the case if they think they can win or at least force a settlement. (~$2 million has been seems to have been the average settlement, reflecting a minimum the defendant would have to spend in litigation, although that number may have risen in recent years.) – DukeZhou Sep 22 '17 at 22:00

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