The U.S. Supreme Court created the enhanced damages standard in its 2016 Halo v. Pulse ruling that created the enhanced damages standard. On September 28, 2021, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit clarified enhanced damages require a higher standard than willful infringement. SRI International, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc., 20-1685; 20-1704.

Specifically, willful infringement, typically a finding by a jury, requires “no more than deliberate or intentional infringement.” On the other hand, an award of enhanced damages, decided by a judge, must find a defendant engaged in “wanton, malicious and bad-faith behavior.”

For example, in SRI International, the Federal Circuit found willful infringement when the defendant did not have a reasonable basis for noninfringement. In contrast, enhanced damages were warranted due to the Defendant’s “aggressive tactics” during the trial. Thus, the inquiry over enhanced damages is broader than the inquiry over willful infringement.