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Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Techs., Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States

April 30, 2014, Argued; June 2, 2014, Decided

No. 12-786

Opinion

 [*917]  [**2115]   JUSTICE  [****4] Alito delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether a defendant may be liable for inducing infringement of a patent under 35 U. S. C. §271(b) when no one has directly infringed the patent under §271(a) or any other statutory provision. The statutory text and structure and our prior case law require that we answer this question in the negative. We accordingly reverse the Federal Circuit, which reached the opposite conclusion.

Respondent the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the assignee of U. S. Patent No. 6,108,703 (’703 patent),  [1684]  which  [*918]  claims a method of delivering electronic data using a “content delivery network,” or “CDN.” Respondent Akamai Technologies, Inc., is the exclusive licensee. Akamai maintains many servers distributed in various locations. Proprietors of Web sites, known as “content providers,” contract with Akamai to deliver their Web sites’ content to individual Internet users. The ’703 patent provides for the designation of certain components of a content provider’s Web site (often large files, such as video or music files) to be stored on Akamai’s servers and accessed from those servers by Internet users. The process of designating  [****5] components to be stored on Akamai’s servers is known as “tagging.” By “aggregat[ing] the data demands of multiple content providers with differing peak usage patterns and serv[ing] that content from multiple servers in multiple locations,” 614 F. Supp. 2d 90, 96 (Mass. 2009), as well as by delivering content from servers located in the same geographic area as the users who are attempting to access it, Akamai is  [***56]  able to increase the speed with which Internet users access the content of its customers’ Web sites.

Petitioner Limelight Networks, Inc., also operates a CDN and carries out several of the steps claimed in the ’703 patent. But instead of tagging those components of its customers’ Web sites that it intends to store on its servers (a step included in the ’703 patent), Limelight requires its customers to do their own tagging. 1 Respondents claim that Limelight “provides instructions and offers technical assistance” to its customers regarding how to tag, 629 F. 3d 1311, 1321 (CA Fed. 2010), but the record is undisputed that Limelight does not tag the components to be stored on its servers.

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572 U.S. 915 *; 134 S. Ct. 2111 **; 189 L. Ed. 2d 52 ***; 2014 U.S. LEXIS 3817 ****; 110 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1681; 82 U.S.L.W. 4439; 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 816; 2014 WL 1260422

LIMELIGHT NETWORKS, INC., Petitioner v. AKAMAI TECHNOLOGIES, INC., et al.

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: On remand at Akamai Techs., Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 786 F.3d 899, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 7856 (Fed. Cir., May 13, 2015)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT

Akamai Techs., Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 692 F.3d 1301, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 18532 (Fed. Cir., 2012)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

infringement, patent, steps, inducement, customers, servers, tagging, rights, impose liability, sites

Business & Corporate Compliance, Infringement Actions, Infringing Acts, Indirect Infringement, Patent Law, Claims, Claim Language, Elements & Limitations, General Overview