Ryan J. Connell, MJLST Lead Articles Editor
In the spring 2013 issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology Mr. Roy D. Gross examined the use of circumstantial evidence to prove inducement of infringement. Mr. Gross’s article is titled Can an Inference of Intent to Induce Infringement of a Patent Be Drawn Where Other Reasonable Inferences Exist? An Examination of the Use of Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Inducement of Infringement. Mr. Gross ultimately argues that that the doctrine of specific intent to infringe in patent cases should be harmonized with the standard used for inequitable conduct.
It is important to discern the boundaries of specific intent to infringe in light of the recent Akamai case. Akamai Techs. Inc. v. Limelight Networks Inc., 692 F.3d 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012). In Akamai the Federal Circuit arguably made it easier for a patent owner to hold a person liable for induced infringement of a method claim when no single person performed all the steps of the method. The Akamai decision still requires the alleged inducer to have the specific intent to induce infringement. Akamai, 692 F.3d at 1308. The results of Akamai are mixed then, on one hand patent owners can now go after those who induced infringement but never induced a single party to infringe the patent. On the other hand the patent owner must still provide evidence of a specific intent to induce infringement.
Proving induced infringement is a difficult task. Direct evidence of inducement is often hard to come by and the patent owner must often resort to using circumstantial evidence to prove specific intent. Mr. Gross suggests courts to weigh the following three factors, in light of circumstantial evidence, when determining if the requisite intent is present: (1) nexus; (2) control; and (3) mitigating evidence of intent not to infringe.
Akamai has closed an undesirable loophole in patent law. For Akamai to reach its full potential however, courts and litigators need to understand how to weigh circumstantial evidence that may be more strained in cases where a patent is collectively infringed as opposed to directly infringed by one actor. Articles such as this can help the legal community understand how to use circumstantial evidence in light of the new induced infringement standard.