Aristocrat Tech., Australia v. Int’l Game Tech, No. 2010-1426, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 5054 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 13, 2013)

Judge O’Malley authored the decision in Aristocrat, joined by Judges Bryson and Linn. The Court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment of no direct infringement, but remanded the case for consideration of joint indirect infringement in view of its recent en banc opinion in Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 692 F.3d 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012). It is interesting to note that Judge Linn wrote the dissenting opinion in Akamai, and was joined there by Judge O’Malley.

Aristocrat sued IGT, its rival in the casino gaming machine business, for alleged infringement of U.S. 7,056,215 and 7,108,603. The patents claim methods for awarding a progressive prize in a bonus game that appears in addition to the main game of, e.g., a slot machine. Aristocrat conceded that the player, rather than the casino or game operator, performed certain steps of the claimed methods, such as activating a user interface. However, citing Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., 532 F.3d 1318, 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (finding direct infringement where third-party actions are at the “control or direction” of the accused infringer), Aristocrat urged the Court to permit a finding of direct infringement in the present case because the player’s actions were the “natural, ordinary, and reasonable consequences” of the accused infringer’s conduct. The Federal Circuit declined to adopt this proposed test by Aristocrat, in part due to the limits of direct infringement reaffirmed in Akamai.

The Federal Circuit did not opine on the merits of Aristocrat’s indirect infringement case because it was only briefly covered by the parties and the district court, but the Court did vacate the summary judgment of no indirect infringement because it was premised on a finding of no direct infringement, whereas the Court in Akamai had since ruled that “[r]equiring proof that there has been direct infringement as a predicate for induced infringement is not the same as requiring proof that a single party would be liable as a direct infringer.”