U.S. Supreme Court won't review Amazon, websites' win in patent case

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FILE PHOTO:The Amazon logo is seen outside its JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, U.S. November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • AWS customers not liable after case against Amazon dropped
  • U.S. government said high court should not review decision

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a win for Amazon.com Inc and Amazon-hosted websites against a patent-holding company that sued the websites for infringement after dropping a case against the tech giant.

A federal appeals court found in 2020 that PersonalWeb Technologies LLC could not bring follow-on lawsuits against several Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers, citing a patent doctrine that dates back to 1907. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear PersonalWeb's challenge to the ruling.

The high court asked the U.S. government last year to weigh in, indicating the justices had some interest in the case. The U.S. Solicitor General told the court in April that the case did not merit high-court review, but disagreed with how the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit applied the doctrine.

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The companies and their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

PersonalWeb abandoned a Texas lawsuit against Amazon and AWS customer Dropbox Inc in 2014 after the court's interpretation of its data-storage patents favored the defendants. It sued dozens of other AWS-powered websites starting in 2018.

The Federal Circuit said in 2020 that some claims against websites including Patreon Inc, BuzzFeed Inc, and Vox Media Inc were barred by the Supreme Court's 1907 ruling in Kessler v. Eldred. The precedent blocks a patent owner who unsuccessfully sues a manufacturer from suing a customer for infringement over the same product.

The appeals court said the doctrine allows an "adjudged non-infringer" to avoid "repeated harassment for continuing its business as usual."

PersonalWeb told the justices that the high court had not cited Kessler in nearly 70 years, and said the Federal Circuit had exceeded its authority by making a "special, patent-specific preclusion doctrine."

The case is PersonalWeb Technologies LLC v. Patreon Inc, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 20-1394.

For PersonalWeb: Jeffrey Lamken of MoloLamken

For Amazon and the websites: David Hadden of Fenwick & West

Read more:

SCOTUS asks for gov't views in Amazon web-hosting patent case

Fed Circuit tosses data storage patent claims against Amazon

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com