Monday, January 16, 2017

Patent - How does this complaint satisfy Iqbal and Twombly?

     For more than a year, Form 18 from the Appendix of Forms to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure has been repealed (cite).  By repealing Form 18, bare bones patent infringement complaints no long meet the Supreme Court's Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal heightened pleading standards (Twombly cite, Iqbal cite).  Under this heightened pleading standard, a plaintiff must plead a “plausible” claim.  In other words, the plaintiff must plead sufficient factual content to allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

     Last week, Seatoun Media alleged that Apple was infringing its U.S. Patent 6,356,626 (Seatoun Media v. Apple).  Although determining whether a complaint meets the heightened pleading standard is handled at the district court level, this complaint may be in trouble.

1.  The case was assigned to Judge Gilstrap who has dismissed at least one case for not meeting the heightened pleading standard (see Ruby Sands LLC v. American Nat'l Bank of Texas link).

2.  The complaint fails to identify a representative claim that is alleged to have been infringed. Instead, the complaint takes a blunderbuss approach and alleges that Apple devices infringe at least one of the 19 claims either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents (see Complaint, 12).

3.  The complaint fails to allege sufficient facts concerning how the Apple devices directly infringe - literally or under the doctrine of equivalents - any of the claims.  Claim 1 is not a simple claim (as shown below).  Plaintiff attempts to distract the court from its failure to allege how Apple devices meet all the claim elements of any claim by boldly alleging, without any support, that Apple devices infringe because they "provide the capability to allow a user to record and/or play back voice messages through a communication link" (see Complaint, 13-14).

     It will be to see if Apple files a motion to dismiss.


     Claim 1 of the '626 Patent states (to make the claim easier to understand, I've added square brackets):
1. A voice message processor comprising, in a single, co-located, unit:

[a] a connection for a communication link capable of transmitting and receiving cells over a public communication network;

[b] a connection for a telephone set;

[c] a connection for a recordable voice message recording/playback device having an input for a signal representing a voice message to be recorded and an output for a signal representing a previously recorded voice message to be played back;

[d] a switching device providing:

     [i] a first state in which the telephone set connection and communication link connection are connected together,

     [ii] a second state in which the voice message recording/playback device input is connected to the communication link connection, and

     [iii] a third state in which voice message recording/playback device output is connected to the communication link connection; and

[e] a controller controlling said voice message recording/playback device to be selectively recorded and played back when said switching device is in its second state and controlling said voice message recording/playback device to be selectively played back when said switching device is in its third state.

 - Henry Park

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