Plaintiff filed a patent infringement action again AT&T Mobility LLC ("AT&T Mobility") for "either literally or by equivalents, and either directly or by inducement or contribution" infringing the patent-in-suit. AT&T moved to dismiss.
AT&T made three arguments in its motion. First, AT&T argued that the plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because they were plead conditionally. Second, AT&T asserted that the plaintiff had failed to adequately allege direct equivalent infringement. Third, AT&T contended that the plaintiff had failed to properly plead the indirect infringement claims.
After reviewing the relevant legal standard, the district court turned to each of AT&T's arguments. With respect to the conditional pleading argument, the district court disagreed based on the reasoning that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for pleading in the alternative. "The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expressly allow for pleading in the alternative: 'A party may set out 2 or more statements of a claim or defense alternatively or hypothetically, either in a single count or defense or in separate ones. If a party makes alternative statements, the pleading is sufficient if any one of them is sufficient.' Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(2); see also Molsbergen v. United States, 757 F.2d 1016, 1018 (9th Cir. 1985). Additionally, '[a] party may state as many separate claims or defenses as it has, regardless of consistency." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(3). Therefore, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for Dr. Chan's method of pleading."
In terms of the direct equivalent infringement allegations, the district court focused on the requirements of Form 18 as the appropriate standard for analyzing the sufficiency of the allegations. "Accordingly, the court will evaluate whether Dr. Chan's claims for direct literal and direct equivalent infringement meet the requirements of Form 18. Dr. Chan's amended complaint, however, does not meet Form 18's requirements because it lacks 'a statement that the plaintiff has given the defendant notice of its infringement,' McZeal, 501 F.3d at 1357. The complaint simply alleges that AT&T has infringed the '207 Patent. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.) Therefore, Dr. Chan has failed to fulfill the requirements for Form 18. Accordingly, the court dismisses Dr. Chan's direct literal and direct equivalent claims for failure to state a claim, but grants him leave to amend."
With respect to the indirect infringement allegations, the district court found that the complaint did not state a claim. "Dr. Chan fails to state a claim for indirect infringement, either induced or contributory, because he fails to allege that AT&T had knowledge of, or was willfully blind to, the '217 Patent. (See generally, AM Compl.) Dr. Chan, in his response brief, contents that the court should infer from the amended complaint that AT&T, because of its size, knew about, or was willfully blind to, the '217 Patent. (Resp. at 13.) Dr. Chan asks the court to speculate about what AT&T and other large companies must know because of their size. (Resp. at 13.) This sort of speculation is improper under federal pleadings standards. See Doe v. Untied States, 419 F.3d 1058, 1062 (9th Cir. 2005) (noting that the court takes all reasonable inferences from the complaint when considering a motion to dismiss)."
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The decision in AT&T Mobility highlight a growing trend of courts that are willing to dismiss claims in patent actions were this is inadequate support in the complaint for allegations of infringement, although most courts allow the plaintiff at least one opportunity to amend.
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.