Supreme Court Clarifies Induced Infringement Standard


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By Amanda Brings

Earlier this month, in Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., a unanimous Supreme Court clarified the standard for induced patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b). The Court held that a defendant may not be liable for inducing infringement of a method patent under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) unless direct infringement has been committed under § 271(a). Under this standard, liability for induced infringement of a multi-step method patent can only attach when a single actor performs all the method steps. In so holding, the Court expressly rejected the Federal Circuit’s relaxed induced infringement standard, which did not require that a single actor perform all the method steps. The Court reversed the Federal Circuit’s decision that a defendant could be liable for induced infringement when it performed only some of the method steps and induced a third party to perform the remaining steps.

In Limelight, Akamai Technologies sued Limelight Networks for infringing its patent, which claimed a method of delivering electronic data using a content delivery network (CDN). Akamai operates a CDN and maintains multiple servers. Website owners contract with Akamai to deliver their websites’ content to Internet users. Akamai’s patent provides for a process known as “tagging,” wherein certain components of its customers’ websites (such as video or music files) are designated for storage on Akamai’s servers. By “tagging” files, Akamai increases the speed with which Internet users access its customers’ websites. Limelight also operates a CDN and carries out several of the steps in Akamai’s patent. Limelight, however, does not tag the components to be stored on its servers and requires its customers to perform their own “tagging.” Continue reading