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(Reuters) – The United States Supreme Court on Monday sought the opinion of the United States government on a case in which Amazon.com Inc and sites that use its hosting service, including Patreon Inc, BuzzFeed Inc and Vox Media Inc , have escaped the infringement claims of a patent holding company. .
The Federal Circuit discovered last year that PersonalWeb Technologies LLC could not sue Amazon and several websites hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) for violating its data transmission patents because the e-commerce giant had already rejected PersonalWeb’s claims. in a separate trial.
The court cited the 1907 Supreme Court decision in Kessler v. Eldred, in which a patent owner who unsuccessfully sued a manufacturer for patent infringement could not then sue a customer for infringement based on the same product.
“The Court in Kessler recognized that even if a product manufacturer were to prevail in a patent infringement action, the manufacturer could be deprived of the benefits of its victory if the patentee were free to sue the manufacturer’s customers,” said the Federal Circuit.
PersonalWeb said in its April petition for the Supreme Court’s consideration that the High Court had not cited the century-old case that gave the doctrine its name for nearly 70 years, and that “in the absence of guidance from Congress, the courts will not should not create special procedural rules for patent cases ”.
The High Court did not give the United States Solicitor General a deadline on Monday to rule on the case.
Amazon declined to comment. PersonalWeb and its lead lawyer Jeffrey Lamken of MoloLamken did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Amazon lead lawyer David Hadden of Fenwick & West.
PersonalWeb dropped its earlier claims against Amazon and the AWS user Dropbox in federal court in East Texas in 2014, after interpretation by the patent court favored Amazon.
She went on to prosecute dozens of other alleged violators in other courts starting in 2018, including several lawsuits against AWS customers where Amazon intervened.
In its opinion last year, the Federal Circuit said some of the infringement claims were barred because they had been raised in the previous lawsuit, and claims filed after that action ended were prohibited by the Kessler Doctrine, which allows “a non-infringing judge to avoid repeated harassment for continuing his activities as usual.”
The appeals court said the doctrine “fills the void” when infringement claims would not otherwise be excluded.
But Kessler “didn’t invent a new broad exclusionary category,” and the ordinary exclusionary rules should apply, PersonalWeb argued in its April petition.
Amazon urged the Supreme Court to deny the review, arguing in its reply to petition certify that Congress “has never seen fit to overturn Kessler despite extensive revisions to the Patent Act”, and the patent pool “is not troubled by Kessler (as the lack of of amicus curiae supporting the petition other than another professional patent assertion entity). “
The case is PersonalWeb Technologies LLC v. Patreon Inc, United States Supreme Court, No. 20-1394.
For PersonalWeb: Jeffrey Lamken from MoloLamken; and Michael Sherman of Stubbs Alderton & Markiles
For Amazon and its customers: David Hadden of Fenwick & West; and Stephen Kinnaird by Paul Hastings
Fed Circuit Launches Data Storage Patent Applications Against Amazon