U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Cisco patent infringement case

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review a patent infringement case involving Cisco Systems Inc that could have broad impact on companies’ ability to defend themselves from similar litigation.

The court said it will consider an earlier ruling by an appeals court that threw out a $64-million patent infringement verdict won by Commil USA, LLC against Cisco.

The justices will hear patent holder Commil’s appeal over whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was correct to throw out the verdict and order a new trial.

The case concerns a patent held by Commil on a way to improve the implementation of a wireless network where multiple access points are needed. Commil sued Cisco for patent infringement and induced patent infringement based on the network equipment maker’s use of similar technology.

In April 2011 a jury awarded Commil almost $63.8 million in damages. A judge subsequently added $10.3 million in interest.

In June 2013, the appeals court ordered a retrial, concluding that Cisco should be allowed to mount a defense to the induced infringement claim on the basis that it had a good faith belief that the Commil patent was invalid when it sold its products to customers. A 2010 jury had concluded the patent was valid.

In a brief filed at the invitation of the high court, the U.S. government warned that companies accused of inducing patent infringement are likely to raise the “good faith” defense in most cases, if not all of them.

The brief court order noted that Justice Stephen Breyer will not participate in the case.

A ruling is due by the end of June. The case is Commil v. Cisco, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-896.

Separately on Friday, Cisco filed two lawsuits against Arista Networks Inc, accusing the smaller rival of copying its networking technologies.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley. Additional reporting by Andrew Chung in New York.; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, James Dalgleish and Christian Plumb)

U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Cisco patent infringement case