Lexington Luminance LLC v. TCL Multimedia Holdings, Ltd. et al. (16-cv-11458).

Judge Casper denied Defendants’ motion to strike or dismiss Lexington’s second amended complaint and also denied Lexington’s motion to strike Defendants’ affirmative defenses. Lexington brought suit in 2016, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,936,851, which covers a semiconductor light-emitting device.  Lexington asserts that Defendants infringe at least one claim from the ‘851 patent through sales of LED televisions.  The case had been stayed pending inter partes reviews; Defendants sought to continue the stay to allow for subsequent IPR’s, which Judge Casper denied.  He also denied the request to have the direct infringement count struck under the Twombly pleading standard, which alleged that Lexington had improperly “parroted” the claim language rather than pointing out with further specificity where each limitation of the asserted claim was found in the accused products.  Judge Casper declined to “wade beyond the sufficiency of the Second Amended Complaint and into an assessment of [its] substantive merits.”  So long as the specific products accused of infringement and the specific claims are identified and a description of how the products infringe are present, the complaint will survive a Twombly/Iqbal motion.  Motions to dismiss induced and willful infringement claims were likewise denied, with Judge Casper stating that at this early stage, a plaintiff is not required to allege more than knowledge of the patent and of infringement.

Lexington’s motion to strike the affirmative defenses was a bit more interesting. Judge Casper noted that it remains in dispute whether Twombly and Iqbal apply to affirmative defenses.  An example of the affirmative defense pled was that “one or more of the asserted claims of the ‘851 patent are invalid for failing to comply with one or more provisions of Title 35 of the United States Code, including, without limitation, one or more of §§ 101, 102, 103, and/or 112.”  Lexington argued that this is too broad to provide adequate notice of the basis for the defense.  Judge Casper found that, by specifying the statutory provisions and by referencing the IPR’s (and the art cited therein), the defense was sufficiently specific.  With respect to defenses of waiver, laches, equitable estoppel, exhaustion or license, Judge Casper refused to apply a heightened pleading standard of Rule 9(b), which applies to allegations of fraud, and refused to strike the defenses at this early stage of the proceedings, without identifying any pled facts that would support such a defense.  It appears that Judge Casper believes that the Twombly/Iqbal standards do not apply to affirmative defenses.

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