Today the Supreme Court declined to hear Limelight’s petition for cert. on the question of whether an accused infringer may be held liable for direct infringement of a claim to a method where multiple parties perform the steps of the method.
On August 13, 2016, the S. Ct. remanded the en banc decision of the Fed. Cir. that set forth the law of divided infringement under s. 271(a), and found that Limelight directly infringed U.S. Pat. No. 6,108,703. The court held that an entity will be found responsible for others’ performance of method steps “(1) where that entity directs or controls others’ performance, [or] (2) where the actors form a joint enterprise.”
As well as in the case of agency or contractual direct infringement, the court concluded that liability under s.271(a) can also be found what an infringer “conditions participation in an activity or receipt of a benefit upon performance of a step or steps of a patented method and establishes the manner and timing of that performance.” The infringer must have the right and ability to stop the infringement.
In those instances, “the third party’s actions are attributed to the alleged infringer such that the alleged infringer becomes the single actor chargeable with infringement.” The element of direction or control is a question of fact, as is the presence of a joint enterprise.
If the facts support the presence of a joint venture, all parties involved can be found liable for direct infringement, “as if each were a separate actor.”
The court found that Limelight directed or controlled its customer’s performance of each remaining method step: “tagging and serving content”). Don’t ask me what this means. See slip. op. at 8-9. Of course, this decision is relevant to a drug company instructing a physician and, ultimately, the patient, via labelling and/or training, about how to use a drug or biological.