The Federal Circuit upheld a grant of summary judgement for Microsoft Corp. in a case involving allegations that the company infringed a patent for speech recognition.

Allvoice owns a patent that allows users to store an audio recording of a dictation, replay it to correct the recognized text, and directly dictate into any application. The patented technology does this by using an interface program that communicates with a speech-recognition engine and the user’s text processing application.

In 2009, Allvoice sued Microsoft, alleging infringement of the patent.

A federal district court concluded that certain claims of the patent were invalid for failing to qualify as one of the four statutory categories of invention under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

New and Useful

The US Supreme Court ruled that a “good faith” belief that a patent is invalid is not a defense to a claim for induced infringement.

The Court found that the Federal Circuit erred when it created the defense.


Commil USA, LLC holds a patent for a method of implementing short-range wireless networks. It sued Cisco, which makes and sells wireless networking equipment, for violating the patent.

Commil alleged that Cisco infringed the patent by making and using network equipment and also induced others to infringe the patent by selling the infringing equipment for them to use.

At the first trial, the jury concluded that the patent was valid and that Cisco had directly infringed. However, the jury found that Cisco is not liable for induced infringement.

Commil filed a motion for a new trial on the issues of induced infringement and damages, and the District Court granted this because of inappropriate comments that Cisco’s patent lawyer had made during trial.

At the second trial, Cisco argued that it had a good-faith belief that the patent was invalid. The District Court ruled that the proffered evidence of this good faith belief was inadmissible.

After the verdict but before judgment, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Global-Tech case in which it held that:

[In] an action for induced infringement, it is necessary for the plaintiff to show that the alleged inducer knew of the patent in question and knew the induced acts were infringing.

Cisco appealed the second verdict. The Federal Circuit concluded that “induced infringement ‘requires knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement,’” and thus that “the District Court had allowed ‘the jury to find [Cisco] liable based on mere negligence where knowledge is required.’”

The Supreme Court noted that:

Under the Patent Act … a patent is “presumed valid.” [cite] That presumption takes away any need for a plaintiff to prove his patent is valid to bring a claim. But if belief in invalidity were a defense to induced infringement, the force of that presumption would be lessened to a drastic degree, for a defendant could prevail if he proved he reasonably believed the patent was invalid.

The case is Commil USA LLC v. Cisco Systems Inc.


According to the Supreme Court,

Creating a defense of belief in invalidity… would have negative consequences. It can render litigation more burdensome for everyone involved. Every accused inducer would have an incentive to put forth a theory of invalidity and could likely come up with myriad arguments.

Thus, “I thought it was legal” is no defense to a claim for induced patent infringement.

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Photo Attribution: “EPC3925″ by Larocomp – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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