(CN) - In a case closely watched by Google and other tech giants, the high court on Friday said it would review a Federal Circuit ruling that made it easier for companies to be held liable for inducing patent infringement.
The case, Limelight Networks v. Akamai Technologies
, involves two method patents owned by Akamai Technologies and McKesson Information Solutions.
Akamai claimed that a company called Limelight Networks violated its patented method of efficient web-content delivery by placing content on its servers and then telling customers how to retrieve that content.
Similarly, McKesson accused Epic Systems Corp., which licenses software to healthcare providers, of helping customers infringe its patented method of electronic communication between patients and healthcare providers.
In both cases, neither Epic nor Limelight directly violated the patents on their own.
A divided 11-judge panel of the Federal Circuit ruled
that a company could be held liable for induced patent infringement even if it only performed part of a patented method.
"To be clear, we hold that all the steps of a claimed method must be performed in order to find induced infringement, but that it is not necessary to prove that all the steps were committed by a single entity," the majority wrote.
Dissenting Judge Pauline Newman said the majority had "greatly enlarge[d]" the grounds on which an inducer is liable, "such as merely advising or encouraging acts that may constitute direct infringement."
"This new rule is not in accordance with statute, precedent, and sound policy," Newman wrote.
Google, Oracle, Symantec and other tech companies filed a friend-of-the-court brief
supporting Limelight's appeal
to the Supreme Court. They said the case warrants review "because it presents an issue of national importance to corporations and consumers."
"The Federal Circuit's elimination of the 'all-elements' or 'single-entity' rule for induced infringement will exacerbate the growing problem of high-cost and abusive patent litigation," they argued.
The justices took up the case Friday without comment, which is customary.