In a continuing a pattern that has seemingly developed over the past several years, the Supreme Court recently overturned two more Federal Circuit decisions relating to key aspects of patent law.
In the first case, Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., the Supreme Court held that that a patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims “fail to inform, with reasonable certainly,” those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention. In doing so, it rejected the Federal Circuit’s prior stringent standard that a patent’s claim is indefinite only when it is not “amenable to construction” or it is “insolubly ambiguous.” If nothing else, this decision will undoubtedly lead to increased patent attacks on § 112 grounds.
In the second case, Limelight Networks Inc. v. Akamai Technologies Inc., the Supreme Court held that there can be no liability for induced infringement without any underlying direct infringement by a single entity. This reversed the Federal Circuit’s controversial decision that induced infringement of a method claim could be predicated on direct infringement where the claim steps were performed by multiple entities.
With these two rulings, the Federal Circuit has been overruled in all five patent cases (Highmark, Octane Fitness, Medtronic, Nautilus, and Limelight) heard by the Supreme Court this term. Adding insult to injury, all five cases involved unanimous decisions by the Supreme Court. Thus, the Federal Circuit is now 0-45 with respect to obtaining supporting votes by Supreme Court justices this year.
Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc.
Limelight Networks Inc. v. Akamai Technologies Inc.