The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in three cases today:

Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., No. 12-786: Respondent Akamai Technologies is the exclusive licensee of a patent that claims a method of delivering electronic data using a content delivery network (CDN). Akamai brought a patent infringement suit against petitioner Limelight Networks, which also operates a CDN and carries out several of the steps claimed in the patent, although Limelight customers, rather than Limelight itself, perform what is known as the “tagging” step of the patent. The District Court concluded that because this tagging step could not be attributed to Limelight, it could not be liable for direct infringement under 35 U.S.C. §271(a), which requires performance of all steps of a method patent to be attributable to a single party. The en banc Federal Circuit reversed, holding that a defendant who performed some steps of a method patent and encouraged others to perform the rest could be liable for inducement of infringement even if no one was liable for direct infringement. Today, the Court reversed, holding that a defendant may not be held liable for inducing infringement of a patent under §271(b) when no one has directly infringed the patent under §271(a) or any other statutory provision.

The Court's decision is available here.

Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., No. 13-369: The Patent Act requires that a patent specification “conclude with one or more claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the application regards as [the] invention.” 35 U.S.C. §112, ¶2. Respondent Biosig Instruments holds the rights to a patent involving a heart-rate monitor used with exercise equipment, and filed this patent infringement suit against Nautilus, alleging that it was selling exercise machines with Biosig’s technology without a license. The District Court granted Nautilus’ motion for summary judgment on the ground that a term in the patent claim failed §112, ¶2’s definiteness requirement. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that a patent claim satisfied the definiteness requirement so long as the claim is “amenable to construction,” and the claim, as construed, is not “insolubly ambiguous.” The Court today vacated and remanded, holding that the Federal Circuit’s formulation does not satisfy the statute’s definiteness requirement, and instead concluded that a patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims, read in light of the specification delineating the patent, and the prosecution history, fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.

The Court's decision is available here.

Bond v. United States, No. 12-158: Petitioner Bond sought revenge on the woman with whom her husband had carried on an affair by spreading two toxic chemicals on the woman’s car, mailbox, and door knob in hopes she would develop a rash. The victim suffered only a minor chemical burn that she treated by rinsing with water. Federal prosecutors charged Bond with violating, inter alia, 18 U.S.C. §229(a). That statutory section is part of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, which makes it a federal crime for a person to use or possess any chemical weapon, and punishes violators with severe penalties. It was passed to fulfill the United States’ obligations under the Convention on Chemical Weapons treaty that Congress ratified in 1997. Bond moved to dismiss the §229(a) charge on the ground that it violates the Tenth Amendment, but pleaded guilty when the District Court denied her motion. The Third Circuit rejected Bond’s Tenth Amendment argument and her additional argument that §229 does not reach her conduct. Today, the Court reversed, holding that under the principle that federal law is generally not read as intruding on the State’s responsibility with respect to local criminal activity unless Congress has clearly indicated that the law should have such reach, and given the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act’s absence of any such clear indication, the Act does not cover the unremarkable local offense at issue here.

The Court's decision is available here.

Today, the Court granted argument to be heard in the following two consolidated cases:

Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, No. 13-895 and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, 13-1138: (a) Whether Alabama’s legislative redistricting plans unconstitutionally classify black voters by race by intentionally packing them in districts designed to maintain supermajority percentages produced when 2010 census data are applied to the 2001 majority-black districts. (b) Did the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) establish its standing to challenge the redistricting plan in total or in part as violating the Equal Protection Clause, even though the ADC did not identify any districts in which the ADC’s members purportedly reside?