The Supreme Court of the United States just ruled on a case that could affect the way companies – especially biotech companies – create the language in their patents. The case, Limelight Networks, Inc vs. Akamai Technologies, Inc, has created a new precedent that will likely change patents in the future.
In this case, both companies were offering similar services that involved storing and retrieving content on their servers to later be used for uploading to webpages. Akamai’s process was patented first, and it involved a lengthy, multi-step process. Limelight’s service was very similar, but did not follow Akamai’s process exactly. One of the steps fell on the responsibility of the client. As such, they argued that their process was different and therefore not in infringement of Akamai’s patent.
The lower appellate court ruled that Limelight was, in fact, not in direct infringement of the patent, but they did rule that they were responsible for “inducing” infringement, and that their actions were a slippery slope that would encourage other companies to try and slip around patent laws by changing one step of a patented process. The Supreme Court ruled against the appellate court and did not agree that any patent violation took place.
This is all a bit concerning to companies whose futures depend on being able to patent complicated processes. They worry that other companies now have free reign to change minute details of a process and therefore circumvent patent law. In order to prevent intellectual property, companies are going to have to start becoming more protective of the language they use in their patents so that they can ensure that their inventions are not being altered and used elsewhere.