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U.S. SC declines to take up Limelight patent infringement case again

By Jessica Karmasek | Apr 21, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to review a federal appeals court’s decision to revive a $45 million patent infringement verdict against Limelight Networks Inc.

The nation’s highest court denied Limelight’s petition for certiorari, according to a 19-page order list released Monday.

In denying the company’s petition, the court left intact a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In its August 2015 ruling, the Federal Circuit deemed Limelight liable for direct infringement of a content delivery patent asserted by rival Akamai Technologies Inc.

Akamai finally won after a fight over the patent -- U.S. Patent No. 6,108,703 -- that lasted almost a decade.

The patent, of which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is the assignee and Akamai is the exclusive licensee, claims a method of delivering electronic data using a content delivery network, or CDN.

The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance. CDNs serve a large portion of the Internet content, including web objects (i.e. text, graphics and scripts), downloadable objects (i.e. media files, software, documents), applications (e-commerce, portals), live streaming media, on-demand streaming media and social networks.

The Federal Circuit’s ruling reinstated a 2008 jury verdict awarded to Akamai for more than $45 million in damages. The verdict had been thrown out in 2009.

“We conclude that the facts Akamai presented at trial constitute substantial evidence from which a jury could find that Limelight directed or controlled its customers’ performance of each remaining method step,” the full court wrote in its nine-page opinion last year.

“As such, substantial evidence supports the jury’s verdict that all steps of the claimed methods were performed by or attributable to Limelight.”

The case was returned to the Federal Circuit, which is charged with handling all U.S. patent appeals, by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in June 2014 that a defendant is not liable for inducing infringement of a patent when no one has “directly infringed” the patent, reversing the Federal Circuit’s decision.

“The Federal Circuit’s analysis fundamentally misunderstands what it means to infringe a method patent,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for a unanimous court.

“A method patent claims a number of steps; under this Court’s case law, the patent is not infringed unless all the steps are carried out.”

Limelight also operates a CDN and carries out several of the steps claimed in the ‘703 patent.

The patent provides for the designation of certain components of a content provider’s website -- often large files, such as video or music files -- to be stored on Akamai’s servers and accessed from those servers by Internet users.

That process of designating components to be stored on Akamai’s servers is known as “tagging.”

Instead of tagging those components of its customers’ websites that it intends to store on its servers, Limelight requires its customers to do their own tagging.

Despite that fact, MIT and Akamai filed suit in 2006. They claimed Limelight “provides instructions and offers technical assistance” to its customers regarding how to tag.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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