Check Your Insurance Policy, and the Case Law, Again

I’m not sure why we can’t seem to settle the question of what IP litigation is covered under the typical Comprehensive General Liability insurance policy. Whether it is because the form is continually evolving, insureds are ever-clever in their strategies for seeking coverage, or the language in the policies is just so bad, we cannot. As a result, every single time a potential coverage issue arises, insureds should check both their policy and the case law in the likely forum for litigation to see if there may be grounds to assert coverage.

A case from the Ninth Circuit, Hyundai Motor v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., is the latest reminder that it pays to re-evaluate coverage every time. Hyundai was sued for patent infringement based on its “build your own car” feature on its Website. Patent infringement is not covered under the typical CGL policy. On that basis, the insurer declined coverage and declined to defend the lawsuit.

Hyundai reasoned that its build your own car feature was a form of advertising, and should have been covered under "advertising injury" clause in the policy. It sued the insurer and won. The court reasoned that the patents-in-suit involved advertising methods, therefore the patent infringement claims involved misappropriation of advertising ideas, and the claims were covered under the advertising injury clause.

Just goes to show you don’t ever know, so it pays to check both the policy and the case law every single time.