U.S. Top Court Reverses Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit Concerning the Standard for Inducement of Violation


In the decision of June 2, 2014, in Limelight Systems Corporation. v. Akamai Technologies Corporation., the U . s . States Top Court unanimously reversed an en banc decision from the Court of Appeals for that Federal Circuit which in fact had held that different tests should be relevant to liability for patent violation of the method claim requiring actions by several party, based on if the defendant was charged with direct violation or of inducing violation. Within the former situation all steps needed to be transported out by or underneath the control of merely one party, within the latter the defendant might be liable when the steps from the claim were transported out by multiple parties following inducement through the defendant. The Final Court could not agree, holding the same test was relevant for direct violation and inducement of violation.


The issue of the items constitutes patent violation in which a patent claim requires actions by several actor has turned into a hot subject recently.

In 2008, in Muniauction Corporation. v. Thomson Corp., a legal court of Appeals for that Federal Circuit held that such situations there is direct violation under 35 USC 271(a) only if just one defendant performs all the steps of the method claim or in which a single party “exercises control or direction within the entire process so that each step is due to the controlling party”.

However, this year in Akamai Technologies Corporation. v. Limelight Systems Corporation. in thinking about the issue of caused violation under 35 USC 271(b), the government Circuit en banc made the decision that the different test applied which there might be inducement of violation even when nobody actor transported out all the steps needed for direct violation. A legal court noted that:

  • Recent precedents of the court have construed section 271(b) to imply that unless of course the accused infringer directs or controls those things from the party or parties which are performing the claimed steps, the patentee doesn’t have remedy, although the patentee’s legal rights are plainly being violated through the actors’ joint conduct. We currently conclude this interpretation of section 271(b) is wrong ought to be statutory construction, precedent, and seem patent policy.

After noting that, unlike direct violation, caused violation isn’t a strict liability tort but is a that needs intent, a legal court continued to state:

  • If your party has knowingly caused others to commit the functions essential to infringe the plaintiff’s patent and individuals others commit individuals functions, there’s pointless to immunize the inducer from liability for indirect violation due to the fact the parties have structured their conduct to ensure that not one defendant has committed all of the functions essential to produce liability for direct violation.

The Final Court’s Decision

The defendant Limelight petitioned for certiorari that the Top Court granted. As noted above, the final Court within an opinion by Alito, J. then reversed the choice from the Court of Appeals.

By doing this, the final Court specifically declined to think about the issue of whether Muniauction was properly made the decision as well as in remanding the situation towards the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the final Court noted “on remand, the government Circuit may have the chance to revisit the 271(a) question whether it so chooses”. Exactly what the Top Court did decide was that “where there’s been no direct violation, there might be no inducement of violation.” Getting different needs of direct and caused violation “would require courts to build up two parallel physiques of violation law: one for liability for direct violation, and something for liability for inducement.

The Final Court observed that Congress been on 35 USC 271(f)(1) adopted different standards to maintain liability for caused violation where there wasn’t any direct violation within the limited conditions of way to obtain aspects of a patented invention to persons outdoors the U . s . States in this manner regarding induce their combination so that, if transported in the U . s . States, would constitute direct violation, but which if transported out outdoors the U . s . States wasn’t an immediate violation. The courts shouldn’t create liability for inducement of non-infringing conduct where Congress has elected to not extend that idea.

Hence, there wasn’t any inducement of violation in our situation where Limelight transported out several steps from the claimed process associated with delivery of the website’s happy to individual Online users, nevertheless its customers transported out other needed steps.

The Final Court recognized that it is interpretation of 35 USC 271(b) allowed

a would-be infringer to evade liability by dividing performance of the method patent’s steps with another whom the defendant neither directs or controls. … Such anomaly, however, would derive from the government Circuit’s interpretation of §271(a) in Muniauction. A wish to prevent Muniauction’s natural effects doesn’t justify essentially altering the guidelines of inducement liability the text and structure from the Patent Act clearly require – a change that will lead to its very own serious and problematic effects, namely creating for §271(b) purposes some free-floating idea of “infringement” both untethered towards the statutory text and hard for that lower courts to use consistently.

The situation now dates back towards the Federal Circuit to think about if the issues as a result of the exam adopted in Muniauction and also the problems you can get for claim drafters for inventions involving multiple steps are so that the Muniauction decision ought to be reconsidered.

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