Judge Stearns granted a motion to quash subpoenas served on more than 100 of defendant’s customers that were issued after the discovery deadline. Plaintiff was pursuing indirect infringement claims against the defendant, and sought through the subpoenas to obtain discovery on direct infringement. Defendants moved for an emergency protective order on September 5th, and Judge Stearns granted the motion on September 6th, finding that a previous extension of discovery was limited to new issues raised by Plaintiff’s proposed new complaint and/or any new defenses; as Plaintiffs knew about its indirect infringement claim since at least December 2013, there was no justification for its not having sought discovery from the customers in a timely fashion. He ordered the parties to meet and confer on the best way to notify the customers that they did not need to respond to the subpoenas, with the Plaintiff to bear the costs of such notification.
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.
Altova GmbH and Massachusetts-based Altova, Inc., accused Romanian partnership Syncro Soft SRL of infringing U.S. Patent No. 9,501,456, titled “Automatic Fix for Extensible Markup Language Errors.” Altova asserts that Syncro Soft’s Oxygen XML Editor’s “Quick Fix” functionality infringes the patent. Altova alleges that venue in Massachusetts is proper because Syncro Soft is not a resident of the United States (and thus may be sued in any judicial district pursuant to TC Heartland) and that Syncro Soft is subject to jurisdiction because it conducts “substantial business” in the state, including at least part of its infringing activity.
Judge Young denied Micron’s motion to dismiss for improper venue, finding Micron had waived a venue challenge by not raising it in its initial Rule 12(b)(6) motion. It is noteworthy that Harvard’s opposition was based solely on waiver, and that Harvard did not argue that venue was proper under TC Heartand. Micron asserted that its venue challenge was not available as of its initial 12(b)(6) motion, because TC Heartland had not yet issued. Judge Young noted, however, that TC Heartland merely reaffirmed a previous Supreme Court decision on venue, and that the defendant in TC Heartland had (ultimately) successfully mounted a venue challenge in the face of countervailing Federal Circuit law. Accordingly, Micron was found to have waived its venue argument by failing to raise it earlier.
Judge Saris denied Intellectual Ventures’ motion to lift a stay pending inter partes review of the three patents in suit. While not all asserted claims are subject to review, Judge Saris noted the significant overlap between the issues before the Patent Trial and Appeals Board and those in litigation. She noted that the plaintiff, a non-practicing entity, will suffer no undue hardship by the delay, and also noted that the litigation was in its infancy with no trial in sight. Intellectual Ventures did receive some solace – Judge Saris indicated that she would not stay the case for IPR’s filed by non-parties unless all defendants agree to be bound by the results of the IPR, would not wait for all IPR’s to be fully resolved, and would not stay pending appeal of the IPR’s.
Judge Young, tired of discovery disputes this case, put forward a new approach on Wednesday. With five trial days coming up in early September and the parties contending that relevant documents still had not been produced, Judge Young stated that no party would be allowed to introduce into evidence anything that had reasonably been called for but not produced prior to Monday, August 21, and that he would draw an adverse inference at trial against any party found not to have produced relevant and responsive documents. Effectively, he is inviting the parties to either cooperate or to dig their own graves.
Venus Locations LLC sued FitnessKeeper, Inc., alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,442,485, titled “Method and apparatus for an automatic vehicle location, collision notification, and synthetic voice.” The plaintiff appears to be a non-practicing entity residing in Plano, Texas, and has sued at least two other companies (Inrix Inc. and Nextraq, Inc.) on the same patent in the Eastern District of Texas. The plaintiff is represented by Ferraiuoli LLC, a Puerto Rican law firm with attorneys admitted in Massachusetts.