Law School Case Brief
Akamai Techs., Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc. - 797 F.3d 1020 (Fed. Cir. 2015)
Direct patent infringement under 35 U.S.C.S. § 271(a) occurs where all steps of a claimed method are performed by or attributable to a single entity. Where more than one actor is involved in practicing the steps, a court must determine whether the acts of one are attributable to the other such that a single entity is responsible for the infringement. The court will hold an entity responsible for others' performance of method steps in two sets of circumstances: (1) where that entity directs or controls others' performance; and (2) where the actors form a joint enterprise.
Akamai Technologies, Inc. was the exclusive licensee of a patent that claimed a method of delivering electronic data using a content delivery network (CDN) (i.e., ‘703 patent). On the other hand, Limelight Networks, Inc. also operated a CDN and carried out several of the steps claimed in the patent, but its customers, rather than Limelight itself, performed the steps of the patent known as “tagging” and “serving.” Because of this, Akamai filed a patent infringement action against Limelight alleging infringement of the ‘703 patent. Upon the conclusion of evidence, the district judge instructed the jury that Limelight was responsible for its customers' performance of the tagging and serving method steps if Limelight was the one directing or controlling its customers' activities. The jury thereafter found that Limelight infringed several claims of the ‘703 patent. Following post-trial motions, the district court first denied Limelight's motion for judgment of non-infringement as a matter of law, ruling that Akamai had presented substantial evidence that Limelight directed or controlled its customers. However, based on the doctrine enunciated in Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., the district court granted Limelight's motion for reconsideration, holding as a matter of law that there could be no liability. Subsequently, Akamai challenged the district court’s decision.
Did Limelight infringe Akamai’s ‘703 patent, notwithstanding the fact that it was not Limelight itself, but its customers who were performing steps included in the patent?
The Court held that Akamai presented substantial evidence demonstrating that Limelight conditions its customers' use of its content delivery network upon its customers' performance of the tagging and serving steps, and that Limelight established the manner or timing of its customers' performance. As such, even if it was not Limelight which was directly performing the steps included in the patent, it was the one directing or controlling its customers’ performance in each remaining method step. In light of this, the Court ruled that all steps of the claimed methods were performed by or attributable to Limelight. Therefore, the Court concluded that Limelight was liable for direct infringement.
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