K Tech Telecommunications ("K Tech") filed patent infringement actions against Time Warner and DirecTV. DirecTV and Time Warner moved to dismiss the patent infringement complaint for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. K Tech owns several patents that are directed toward particular ways of updating certain channel information associated with certain digital television signals.
As explained by the district court, "[a]ccording to Plaintiff, full-power television stations identify individual television programs carried by a digital television signal transmitted over the air using a major channel number, a minor channel number, and/or a carrier frequency. Plaintiff's patents explain that when a television translator facility receives a broadcast, translates it to a new frequency, and rebroadcast it, so-called Program and System Information ("PSIP") data associated with the transmission, including channel number and carrier frequency, might not be updated. Plaintiff's patented inventions enable a television translator facility to update the PSIP table with proper channel and carrier frequency information."
The district court next addressed whether K Tech's complaint satisfied the requirements of Ashcraft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007), i.e., whether the claim is facially plausible such that there are sufficient factual allegations to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. K Tech alleged that DirecTV and Time Warner are infringing its patents by making, selling and offering to sell systems and methods for modifying a major channel number, a minor channel number, and/or a carrier frequency to identify a television program. In support of this contention, K Tech alleged that "[i]n order to broadcast programs in a cable or satellite system, television broadcast stations, such as [Defendant], must identify television programs with a channel number so that users can select the programs."
The district court concluded that these allegations were insufficient to state a claim. "Based solely on this evidence and without any additional factual allegations, Plaintiff seems to suggest that Defendant must operate some product or process in a manner that infringes some of the Asserted Patents, because Defendant is able to Achieve the same end-result as that contemplated by the Asserted Patents. Although Plaintiff strongly believes that Defendant 'must' be infringing the Asserted Patents, Plaintiff fails to explain the basis of this belief. Plaintiff does not explain why it believes that Defendant is utilizing the methods and products protected by the Asserted Patents to update the digital signals it receives, rather than using other non-infringing methods and products."
Further, the district court found that even if plaintiff could obtain more specific information regarding the technology through discovery, this was not sufficient to defeat dismissal of the claim. "Plaintiff may be able to obtain more specific information regarding Defendant's technology through discovery. However, as the Supreme Court has explained, 'Rule 8...does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.' Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950."
Accordingly, the district court granted the motions to dismiss but permitted K Tech leave to amend but only provided a few weeks to do so.
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In opposing the motion to dismiss, K Tech submitted a declaration by its counsel regarding some experimentation that was conducted to cure the problems with the complaint. Of course, the district court could not consider materials outside of the pleading on a motion to dismiss so this evidence was disregarded. Given the likelihood of these motions to dismiss, it would be better to have alleged these facts -- along with as many other facts as possible -- to avoid the motion to dismiss or to prevail if it is brought. Now, K Tech has a limited amount of time to find those facts where it had ample time before it filed its complaint.
The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.