Judge: Pleading must identify parties that indirectly infringe
In Network-1 Security Solutions, Inc. v. Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., et al., a recent case from the Eastern District of Texas, U.S. District Judge Leonard E. Davis granted-in-part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with respect to plaintiff's allegations of indirect infringement.
Plaintiff Network-1 Security Solutions, Inc. ("Plaintiff") brought suit against 26 defendants, including Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Samsung Electronics America Inc. and Samsung Telecommunications America LLC.'s (collectively "the Samsung Defendants"), for directly and indirectly infringing U.S. Patent No. 6,218,930, entitled "Apparatus and Method for Remotely Powering Access Equipment Over a 10/100 Switched Ethernet Network."
The Samsung Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that the complaint failed to identify a) the accused product or services and b) a direct infringer.
With respect to the direct infringement allegations, Judge Davis found that the plaintiff's complaint identified the allegedly infringing products as those "which distribute or use power transferred through Ethernet cables." Finding this identification to be adequate, the court denied the Motion to Dismiss as to these claims.
As for indirect infringement, plaintiff alleged that the defendants "have contributed to or induced, and continued to or induce, others to infringe the '930 Patent."
The court acknowledged the split in the courts as to the level of specificity required to plead indirect infringement. Taking the pleading as a whole, the court found that plaintiff's allegations of indirect infringement did not state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face because they failed "to inform the Defendants as to what they must defend."
The complaint did not meet the low level of specificity required by Form 18 of the Appendix of Forms mentioned by Fed. R. Civ. P. 84.
"[T]he Court expects that the Plaintiff already has sufficient knowledge of facts that it can include in its complaint that would give the named defendants sufficient notice of the indirect infringement claims alleged against them."
As a result, the court granted the Samsung Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to the indirect infringement claims.
This decision touches upon the inconsistency that exists between the heightened standard of pleading resulting from the Supreme Court's Twombly and Iqbal decisions and the relatively low bar set for pleadings by Form 18 of the Appendix to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Here the court found that the Twombly and Iqbal decisions do not affect whether a pleading complies with Form 18.
"To hold otherwise would render Rule 84 and Form 18 invalid. This cannot be the case."
Whether Form 18 will eventually be revised or even eliminated remains an issue for resolution in the future.