The Federal Circuit’s Akamai/McKesson Decision Abolishes the “Single-Entity Rule” for Inducement


A recent en banc Federal Circuit decision makes it easier for patentees to prove induced infringement in cases in which multiple actors perform the steps of a claimed method collectively. In the 6-5 decision, the court overturned its caselaw holding that a plaintiff alleging induced infringement must show that the defendant induced a single entity to perform all of the steps of the claimed method. The court held instead that the plaintiff must show only that the defendant induced one or more entities to perform all of the steps not performed by the defendant itself. Notably, the court reached its decision without altering the principles of liability for direct infringement.


The Federal Circuit’s decision arose from its en banc rehearing of two cases: Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc. and McKesson Technologies, Inc. v. Epic Systems Corp. In Akamai, the owner of a patent claiming a method for delivering web content alleged that a network service provider performed all but one step of the method, and induced content providers to perform the final step. In McKesson, the owner of a patent claiming a method of electronic communication between healthcare providers and their patients alleged that a software company induced healthcare providers to perform some steps of the method, and induced patients to perform the other steps. In each case, a Federal Circuit panel affirmed judgment of non-infringement because the plaintiff failed to show that a single actor performed all of the steps of the claimed method. The en banc court reheard the cases jointly.

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