Today, the Federal Circuit in an en banc decision in Akamai v. Limelight has taken a step to restore sanity to the law relating to patent infringement where multiple actors perform different steps in a method claim by restoring a jury verdict of infringement in a case where the claims in Akamai’s patent were to a method of delivering content over the internet and some of the steps were carried out by Limelight and others by its customers.
Since the Federal Circuit’s 2007 decision in BMC Resources Inc. v. Paymantech, L.P. finding that there was no infringement in a case where different actors performed different sets of a claim directed to a method of paying bills, case law has made it increasingly difficult to enforce patents relating to methods where different steps are taken by different actors. In 2011, the Federal Circuit agreed to review the situation en banc, but in its decision, went off on a tangent and treated the problem as being one of whether one party induced another to infringe and in doing so held that different tests applied as to what was needed to show “infringement” when considering direct infringement and induced infringement. The Supreme Court disagreed and returned the case to the Federal Circuit paving the way for today’s decision.
Overuling Golden Hour Data Systems, the decision sets out two situations where there may be patent infringement of a method claim even though multiple actors are involved: (1) where that entity directs or controls another’s performance, and (2) where the actors form a joint enterprise.