| WASHINGTON, April 30
WASHINGTON, April 30 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Wednesday appeared unsure how to proceed in a dispute over
whether Limelight Networks Inc infringed upon patented
technology for managing Web images and video held by Akamai
The nine justices are weighing whether a company can be held
liable for inducing patent infringement when the final step that
leads to infringement is carried out by a third party.
But during much of a one-hour-long argument, the justices
focused less on the legal issue and more on concerns about
whether the high court should issue its ruling without first
asking a lower court to take a second look at the case.
The justices are reviewing an August 2012 ruling by a
divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in
Akamai's favor, which effectively made it easier to prove that a
company is liable based on the induced infringement theory.
But as several justices noted on Wednesday, the appeals
court did not decide the question of whether direct infringement
had occurred before ruling that there was induced infringement.
Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Elena Kagan both raised
concerns that a Supreme Court ruling on the induced infringement
question would be rendered largely meaningless unless the direct
infringement issue was resolved.
"I can't think of a way our decision ... would be relevant
for any case," Kagan said.
Likewise, Justice Stephen Breyer said he was "worried about
setting forth any rule" without being more informed on the
Various other companies, including Google Inc,
Cisco Systems Inc and Oracle Corp, joined
briefs backing Limelight. They say the appeals court ruling
under review could make tech companies subject to more
Some pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, including Eli
Lilly and Co and Myriad Genetics Inc, support
Akamai, saying the appeals court's decision would help protect
major investments in pharmaceuticals by making it easier to sue
for infringement involving multiple parties.
The Akamai lawsuit was filed in 2006. A Massachusetts jury
initially found that Limelight infringed the patents and awarded
$40.1 million for lost profits and $1.4 million for damages.
A ruling is expected by the end of June.
The case is Limelight Networks v. Akamai Technologies, U.S.
Supreme Court, No. 12-786
(Editing by Grant McCool)