By Brent Kendall
The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday that it would consider whether to make it easier to hold companies liable for encouraging others to commit patent infringement.
The court agreed to hear an appeal by Internet services company Limelight Networks Inc., which is fighting a patent-infringement lawsuit brought by larger rival Akamai Technologies Inc.
A splintered federal appeals court ruled in 2012 that Akamai could proceed with allegations that Limelight encouraged its customers to infringe an Akamai patent involving a method for helping website owners manage online traffic efficiently.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in a 6-5 decision, ruled Limelight would be liable if Akamai could prove that Limelight performed some actions outlined in the patent and then directed its customers to perform the remaining steps in the patent.
Limelight, which denied Akamai's allegations, argued that a company shouldn't be held liable for encouraging patent infringement unless some single party performs every step in the patent.
Akamai said the lower court's ruling correctly closed a loophole that allowed companies to induce patent infringement without any penalty.
A host of technology companies, including Google Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp., urged the Supreme Court to hear the case. They warned that the lower court ruling would expand significantly patent-infringement liability for companies whose high-tech products could be used to facilitate patent infringement by others.
The Obama administration also urged the court to hear the case, voicing similar arguments.
The Supreme Court likely will hear oral arguments in April, with a decision expected by the end of June.
Write to Brent Kendall at firstname.lastname@example.org
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 10, 2014 15:34 ET (20:34 GMT)Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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