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On May 26, 2015 the Supreme Court decided Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc. Commil USA, LLC, owned a patent, number 6,430,395, for a method of implementing short-range wireless networks. The invention is used, for example, in a wireless system like a mobile device such as a phone and laptop computers. The device communicates with fixed “base stations” according to standardized procedures that govern how data exchanged between devices is formatted, ordered, maintained, and transmitted in a procedure referred to as “protocols.” Effective wireless communication requires that both the transmitting and receiving devices follow the same protocol. The court describes the relationship between the wireless communication and the patent as:
The ′395 patent relates to a method of providing faster and more reliable handoffs of mobile devices from one base station to another as a mobile device moves throughout a network area. The ′395 patent teaches that the communication protocol is divided based on time sensitivity. The portions of the protocol requiring accurate time synchronization—“real-time capabilities”—are performed at the base station. This part of the protocol is called the “low-level protocol.” Other parts of the protocol that are not time-sensitive comprise the “high-level protocol,” which is performed on another device called a switch. The base station and switch cooperate to handle a connection with a mobile unit. To implement the full communications protocol, the base station runs an instance of the low-level protocol for the connection and the switch runs a corresponding instance of the high-level protocol.
Commil claimed that Cisco Systems, Inc., a business that makes and sell wireless networking equipment, directly infringed Commil’s patent with its networking equipment. In addition, they claimed Cisco induced others to infringe the patent by selling the infringing equipment for the other’s use.
The issues of direct and indirect infringement are discussed with an emphasis here on the indirect (induced) infringement and using good-faith as a defense to it. The court held that Cisco did directly infringe and therefore the question becomes if Commil’s cause of action involves induced infringement, can Cisco argue that it believed in good faith that the patent was invalid as a defense? The Supreme Court held that a defendant’s belief regarding patent validity is not a defense to an induced infringement claim. Justice Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion, with whom Chief Justice Roberts joined.