In Limelight v. Akamai, the Supreme Court will decide whether a defendant can be held liable for induced infringement even when no one has committed direct infringement. Akamai held a patent for a method in which one step was performed by Internet content providers, and other steps were performed by Internet service providers which stored and served content. Therefore, no single provider performed every method step, and so no single provider directly infringed the claimed method. The en banc Federal Circuit nonetheless held that Limelight, an Internet service provider, could be held liable for induced infringement because it “performed all but one of the steps of the method claimed in the patent” and “induced the content providers to perform the final step of the claimed method.” The Supreme Court will decide whether a defendant can be held liable for induced infringement under such a theory where there is no one direct infringer but all of the steps of the method are performed.
In Nautilus v. Biosig, the Supreme Court will review the Federal Circuit’s legal standard for indefiniteness of a patent claim, which is currently as follows: “[I]f reasonable efforts at claim construction result in a definition that does not provide sufficient particularity and clarity to inform skilled artisans of the bounds of the claim, the claim is insolubly ambiguous and invalid for indefiniteness.” Biosig held a patent which included the element of two electrodes in a “spaced relationship.” The patent did not explain the meaning of “spaced relationship,” and the alleged infringer argued that the patent was therefore invalid for indefiniteness. The Federal Circuit disagreed, construing “spaced relationship” to mean “pertaining to the function of substantially removing” certain signals, and holding that the claim was sufficiently definite to be valid. It reasoned that under Federal Circuit precedent, a claim is valid when the “meaning of the claim is discernible, even though the task may be formidable and the conclusion may be one over which reasonable persons will disagree.” The Supreme Court will decide whether the Federal Circuit should have applied a more rigorous definiteness requirement.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear argument in both cases in April and issue its rulings by the end of June this year.