US Solicitor General asks Supreme Court to hear Akamai v Limelight
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US Solicitor General asks Supreme Court to hear Akamai v Limelight

The US Solicitor General has filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to agree to hear Akamai v Limelight, a case concerning whether patent infringement can occur when two separate parties perform different steps of a method claim.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli recommended on Tuesday that the Supreme Court should accept the case and rule in Limelight’s favor. In his brief, he argued that the Patent Act does not adequately outline the law on divided infringement.

Akamai filed its petition for a writ of certiorari in February. In June, the Supreme Court asked for the Solicitor General’s views on whether it should hear the matter and put the case on hold while awaiting a response.

In its response to Akamai’s petition for certiorari, Limelight asked the Supreme Court to accept the case and reaffirm the principle laid out in the 1961 case Aro Manufacturing v Convertible Top Replacement: “If there is no direct infringement of a patent there can be no [indirect] infringement.”

The dispute dates back to 2006, when Akamai sued Limelight for allegedly infringing US Patent No. 6,108,703, which claims a method of structuring websites and their supporting servers that allows the sites to handle traffic more efficiently. In the patent, which is exclusively licensed to Akamai, one step of the method claims is the modification of a URL to redirect requests for certain website content. Akamai claims Limelight induced its customers to perform this step.

A district court jury found Limelight had not infringed because it did not perform all the steps of the method claim and because “direction or control requires something more than merely a contractual agreement to pay for a defendant’s services and instructions on how to utilise those services.”

The Federal Circuit upheld the decision on appeal. But in August 2012, the Federal Circuit reviewed the case en banc, ruling in a split decision that it erred in its previous interpretation of Section 271(b) to mean that the patent holder has no remedy unless the accused infringer controls or directs the parties performing the steps.

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