Feeds

Supreme Court nixes idea of 'indirect' patent infringement

Akamai v Limelight decision overturns partial liability rule

Reducing security risks from open source software

The US Supreme Court has issued a ruling that could help shield companies and end users from patent-troll lawsuits.

The court on Monday issued a unanimous ruling to overturn a Federal Circuit court ruling in the case of Akamai v. Limelight.

In the opinion, written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito on behalf of the unified court, the Supreme Court argued that in order for a patent infringement decision to be issued, a defendant has to have been shown to infringe upon all steps in a patent rather than a portion.

The ruling overturns an infringement decision against content delivery network operator Limelight. Rival Akamai had charged that Limelight had partially infringed upon its patents for delivering content over private networks, then provided its customers with instructions on how to perform the final steps in the process.

In issuing the ruling, the court said that in order for a group or individual to be found in violation of a patent, that single party must perform all the steps involved in the infringement. As end users performed the final steps in its process, Limelight could not be found liable.

"A defendant is not liable for inducing infringement under [US Code] §271(b) when no one has directly infringed under §271(b) or any other statutory position," Alito wrote in the ruling (PDF).

"Liability for inducement must be predicated on direct infringement."

The case had been seen as an important test for patent litigation, as opponents worried that a decision in Akamai's favor would open the door for "patent troll" entities to flood courts with more audacious claims of patent infringement by vendors and possibly even end users.

Among those groups who had petitioned against the Circuit Court ruling against Limelight was the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the digital rights group that has long stood in opposition to patent trolls and "stupid" patent claims.

Following Monday's ruling, the EFF said that in overturning the Circuit Court ruling, the nation's top court had protected users from being hit with infringement suits when they hadn't knowingly done so.

"The Federal Circuit reasoned that in this case, despite the text of the statute, Congress would have wanted the defendant to be found liable even though its customers performed one of the steps of the patent," wrote EFF staff attorney Vera Ranieri.

"The Supreme Court saw the mischief that the Federal Circuit's approach could cause, finding 'no principled reason' that would prevent the Federal Circuit from finding infringement in other circumstances based on a notion that 'Congress would have wanted it' (even though Congress never actually did)." ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.