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Top U.S. court to hear Limelight patent case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a patent case involving technology for managing web images and video that features Limelight Networks Ltd and Akamai Technologies and which has been closely followed by much of the high-tech world for years.

The nation's top court also said it would hear a second patent case, Nautilus, Inc v Biosig Instruments, Inc., that centers on heart-rate monitor technology.

In the original case, dating back to 2006, Akamai accused Limelight of infringing on its patented technology for managing Web images and video.

The case has wound its way through the court system since then. Limelight objected to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which had said that in the case of software and other so-called "method patents," two companies - for example, a manufacturer and a user - can jointly infringe on a patent.

Major technology companies including Google, Cisco, Oracle, Red Hat, SAP America filed a brief in support of Limelight, saying the earlier ruling could make tech companies subject to more infringement lawsuits.

"I certainly think that Limelight will be reversed," said patent expert Hal Wegner of the law firm Foley and Lardner LLP. "I'm sure the big software companies are delighted" that the Supreme Court will hear the case.

Akamai Technologies had asked the court to decline to hear the Limelight case, and filed a separate appeal.

The Supreme Court did not indicate if it would take the Akamai appeal. Nor did it say whether it would hear three other patent cases of interest: Sovereign v. Newegg; Power Integrations v. Fairchild Semiconductor; and Organic Seed v Monsanto.

In the long-running heart rate monitor case, Biosig had sued Nautilus in 2004, saying that Nautilus infringed its patent for a heart rate monitor that a user grips while using exercise equipment.

A district court had said that the patent was invalid because of "indefiniteness," which basically means it was not clear. The Federal Circuit said it was clear and that the patent was valid.

The case is of interest since patentees tend to draft what a patent can do as vaguely as possible so that the issued patent will be as broad as possible. In this case, the Federal Circuit had said that the patent language was appropriately definite.

The first case at the U.S. Supreme Court is Limelight Networks, Inc v. Akamai Technologies. The case is no. 12-786

The second is Nautilus, Inc v Biosig Instruments, Inc. The case is no. 13-369.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz, editing by Ros Krasny)

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