Addressing infringement of a method claim by one or two actors, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a district court’s grant of summary judgment of no infringement, but in doing so found no direct infringement and remanded on indirect infringement for consideration under its recent en banc decision in Akamai. Move, Inc. v. Real Estate Alliance Ltd., Case No. 12-1342 (Fed. Cir., Mar. 4, 2013) (Lourie, J.)
Real Estate Alliance Ltd. (REAL) holds a patent relating to methods for locating available real estate property using a zoom-enabled map. The claim required creating a database of available real estate properties; displaying a map of a geographic area; selecting a first area having boundaries within the geographic area; zooming into the first area to display a more detailed view of the selected first area; displaying the zoomed area; and then allowing further selecting, zooming and displaying of additional areas within the first selected area. In a prior Federal Circuit appeal, the court construed the “selecting” steps to mean “the user or a computer chooses an area having boundaries” and excluded from the term the scenario where “the computer updates certain display variables to reflect the selected area.” On remand from the first appeal, the district court granted summary judgment of no infringement because defendant’s “Search by Map” or “Search by Zip Code” website functions did not perform the selecting steps of the claims. Users performed the selecting step by entering a zip code or clicking on a city or neighborhood name. Move’s systems merely displayed the results of the selection for the user to view. The district court also concluded that Move’s systems were not liable for joint infringement because Move did not exert direction or control over the users performing the selecting step. REAL appealed again to the Federal Circuit.
The Federal Circuit affirmed the finding of no direct infringement, concluding that Move did not perform each step of the method claim and so Move alone did not directly infringe. Users of Move’s system may have performed the selecting steps, but Move did not exercise direction or control over them. Thus, a user’s use of Move’s website did not result in direct infringement under a joint actor theory of liability.
The Federal Circuit, however, did find that the district court legally erred by not analyzing inducement under § 271(b) in light of the Federal Circuit’s recent guidance provided in en banc Akamai decision. Akamai clarified that all the steps of a method claim must be performed in order to find inducement, but that it is not necessary to prove that all steps were performed by a single actor. The Federal Circuit remanded the case for the district court to consider whether all of the claimed steps were in fact performed and whether Move knew of the asserted patent and performed or knowingly induced performance of the steps of the claim methods.