ABC Corp. I v. Partnership & Unincorporated Assocs. Identified on Sched. A, No. 1:20 cv 4806, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sept. 4, 2020) (Seeger, J.).

Having previously issued a show cause order, Judge Seeger granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint in this patent dispute naming the plaintiff, or the case would be dismissed for improperly filing as an anonymous plaintiff.

While Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 10(a) allows a plaintiff to file anonymously in exceptional circumstances and with leave of court, those circumstances include protecting state secrets, trade secrets or victims of abuse, not patent infringement. Plaintiff’s theory “seemed to be” that filing in its name would alert defendants and allow them to create new fictitious seller names or get new Amazon Standard Identification Numbers. But the Court noted that defendants could take those same actions at any point in the case, for example after a Temporary Restraining Order was issued. A patent suit alone is not enough to justify plaintiff filing anonymously.

I have watched an increasing number of IP suits filed by anonymous plaintiffs in the Northern District and have been waiting to see a decision like this, acknowledging that a plaintiff filing anonymously required unique circumstances, beyond the risk of defendant avoiding judgment by altering its identity.