Federal Circuit continues trend of interpreting “use” under §271(a) broadly
By Philip Yen – Edited by Matthew Gelfand
Centillion Data Systems, LLC v. Qwest Communications International, Inc., No. 2010-1110 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 20, 2011)
The Federal Circuit vacated an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which had granted summary judgment of noninfringement in favor of Qwest on the grounds that neither Qwest nor its customers individually “practice[d] all of the limitations of the asserted claims.”
The issue was ultimately a question of what the word “use” means under 35 U.S.C. §271(a), which governs infringement of patents. The District Court, drawing from Federal Circuit precedent, had held that to “use” a system for purposes of infringement, a party must either practice every element or control and direct the actions of another that practices the elements in question. NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Ltd., 418 F.3d 1282 (Fed. Cir. 2005). Although the Federal Circuit agreed with the District Court’s definition of “use,” it held that the District Court had misinterpreted the definition “by holding that in order to ‘use’ a system under §271(a), a party must exercise physical or direct control over each individual element of the system. The ‘control’ contemplated in NTP is the ability to place the system as a whole into service.” Slip Op. at 8. Thus, a customer’s use of the front-end application that utilized Qwest’s back office systems satisfied §271(a)’s requirement of “use.” In so holding, the court noted that that the District Court’s contrary interpretation would have effectively overturned NTP, since the customer in that case would not have met the District Court’s threshold of control either.
Patently-O provides an overview of the case. The Patent Prospector discusses the case and provides some commentary. IPWatchdog criticizes the decision based on concern that the holding of NTP and Qwest overextends §271(a), and that the definition of “use” under the statute is being broadened. (more…)