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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled that companies no longer need a lawyer’s opinion that they are not infringing someone else’s patent. The court had previously ruled that a party must seek legal advice to prove that it had not knowingly infringed a valid patent. It had further ruled that if a party withheld the advice during discovery—by declining to waive attorney-client privilege—a judge could instruct the jury to infer that the party had engaged in willful infringement. The policy is known as the “adverse inference rule. Last year, the Federal Circuit said it would review its previous opinions en banc in a pending case, and asked for amicus briefs. About 25 organizations and companies submitted briefs calling for the court to reverse its position. “The inference that withheld opinions are adverse to the client’s actions can distort the attorney-client relationship,” the court concluded last week in overturning its precedent. Knorr-Bremse Systeme Fuer Nutzfahrzeuge GmbH v. Dana, No. 01-1357. — American Lawyer Media

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