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Supreme Court Decides Limelight Networks

Jim Ruttler, Patent Attorney

Posted Thursday, June 5, 2014 by Jim Ruttler

The Supreme Court decided this week the divided infringement case of Limelight v. Akamai. The issue in the case was whether Limelight infringed the method claims of Akamai, when Limelight only performed some of the steps of the method and its customers performed the other steps. That is, Limelight did not perform all of the steps of the patented method, only a portion of the steps with the remaining steps performed by its customers. The trial court initially sided with Limelight holding that there was no direct infringement because not all of the steps were performed by Limelight. The appeals court, however, reversed in favor of Akamai holding that Limelight was liable for indirect infringement under the theory of inducement. The appeals court reasoned that even though Limelight didn’t perform all of the steps, it was liable because it encouraged its customers to perform the remaining steps. The Supreme Court reversed again and found in favor of Akamai with the reasoning that inducement only occurs when a single entity is encouraged to perform all of the steps of the method. Here, Limelight did some of the steps, but encouraged others to perform only some of the steps.

Moving forward, the take away message here is that patent claims should be drafted carefully so that it is likely that they will be performed by a single entity.

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