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Infringement of patent claims is a statutory tort.  The United States Code governs direct infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a), which encompasses infringement of both apparatus and method claims.  Infringement of a method claim requires its use by the performance of each step of the claimed method.  In Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit addressed the issue of liability for divided infringement of method claims.  Specifically, the court addressed whether a defendant, in an arms-length relationship with a third party, can be liable for direct infringement when it performs some steps of a method claim and the third party performs the remainder of the steps.  The court held the defendant liable for direct infringement because the third party’s actions are attributable to the defendant, but the court also maintained that only single entities can be liable for direct infringement.

Read the full Case Comment here.