Newt LLC v. Nestle USA, Inc., No. 09 C 4792, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 28, 2011) (Coleman, J.)
Judge Coleman denied defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but dismissed the false patent marking case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to sufficiently plead intent to deceive. The Court held that plaintiff Newt had standing to sue without proof of particularized injury, citing Stauffer v. Brooks Bros., Inc., 619 F. 3d 1321, 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2010).
Newt alleged that defendant Graphic Packaging (“GPI”) falsely marked the products and sold them to the customer defendants. GPI made no allegations that the customer defendants marked the accused products. The customer defendants were, therefore, dismissed.
Further, all defendants were dismissed because Newt only made generalized intent allegations — e.g., that defendants were “sophisticated companies.”
Finally, the Complaint was dismissed because Newt made only general allegations against all defendants, rather than particular allegations against each defendant.

Continue Reading False Patent Marking Requires Particular Allegations That Each Defendant Marked

Heathcote Holdings Corp. v. William K. Walthers, Inc. d/b/a Darda Toys, No. 09 C. 6722, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 11, 2011) (Bucklo, J.).
Judge Bucklo granted defendants summary judgment that it lacked the intent to deceive required by the false patent marking statute, 35 U.S.C. § 292. While an employee and her team were responsible for the information on the packaging, there was no evidence that the employee or her team were aware that the patents had expired, were (in one case) not the correct patent number or otherwise had any knowledge of the false marking statute. Indeed, plaintiff acknowledged that defendant “makes an effort to ensure that its packaging is truthful.” Furthermore, upon learning of plaintiff’s allegations, defendant created an “action plan” to resolve the issues. Defendant segregated the accused inventory, removed the patent information and held new production until its suppliers could change the markings. Based upon these facts, the Court held that no reasonable jury could find that the defendant had the required intent to deceive.
The Court went on to hold that the concepts of agency and collective corporate knowledge, or “collective scienter” were not applicable. The Seventh Circuit had specifically held that intent to deceive is not a corporate attribute.

Continue Reading Collective Scienter Does Not Apply to False Patent Marking

Several significant trends are developing as I read this year’s N. D Illinois patent decisions. The trends are largely, although not all, Chicago-specific. And they appear to be largely influenced by the not-so-new Local Patent Rules.
Faster Settlement Times. Patent cases are settling faster. While the economy may still be playing a role, I believe that the LPR 2 initial contentions are driving early settlements. When parties take them seriously and make their best early cases, it is causing opponents to reconsider their positions and driving earlier settlements. Maybe more importantly, armed with more substantive analysis up-front, parties are talking more and more settlement discussions lead to more settlements. No doubt this is one of the impacts that the Court expected when it developed the LPR 2 initial contentions.
False Patent Marking is Dying. In early 2010, the Northern District was among the top three districts for false patent marking filings, in particular those cases brought by marking trolls (non-competitors in the defendant’s industry). Unlike the Eastern District of Texas (which applied Rule 8 notice pleading to the intent requirement), the Northern District was split with many judges applying Rule 9 heightened pleading and a few applying Rule 8 notice pleading. That slowed the flow of cases to a degree, but what seems to have finished them is a combination of the Federal Circuit’s BP Lubricants decision (requiring Rule 9(b) pleading for the intent requirement) and a decision this spring holding that corporate intent was not recognized in the Seventh Circuit, so the required intent must be shown in at least one employee, officer or agent of the corporation.
LR 56.1 Summary Judgment Decisions are on the Decline. There seem to be fewer decisions granting or denying summary judgment for failure to comply with the Local Rule 56.1 requirements for statements of material facts. Having tracked five years worth of intellectual property summary judgment decisions chastising parties for failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1, I cannot imagine that there is a trend toward strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1. Furthermore, this does not appear to be true in the trademark, copyright or trade secret realms. So, my suspicion is that this trend is really about fewer summary judgment decisions. And there are fewer summary judgment decisions for at least two reasons: 1) earlier settlement which avoids summary judgment motions; and 2) the Local Patent Rule 6.1 comment that judges have discretion to delay “early” summary judgment motions until the end of the discovery and the LPR 1.1 authority to delay motions raising claim construction issues until after the claim construction opinion issues.

Continue Reading N. D. Illinois 2011 Patent Trends

Heathcote Holdings Corp. v. Learning Curve Brands, Inc., No. 10 C 7799 (Kendall, J.).
I generally write about opinions issued by the Northern District, but the parties in this case recently filed their false patent marking settlement agreement. Because of the extreme interest in false marking cases over the last eighteen months, I am posting about the settlement. Plaintiff accused defendants of falsely marking various Thomas the Tank Engine toy trains and related products with two patents. In one instance, the alleged false marking appears to be based upon the omission of one number from the patent number — it read U.S. Patent No. 7,178,68 instead of 7,178,685.
Here are the highlights of the agreement:
Defendants agreed to pay $85,000, with half mailed for overnight delivery directly to the Department of Justice.
The agreement was subject to approval by Department of Justice’s Director of Intellectual Property Staff before becoming final, which was given with minor edits.
The agreement released all false marking claims related to the two patents at issue, but did not attempt to waive any possible false marking by defendant as of the date of the agreement. Of course, it may be that the two identified patents were either defendants’ only patents or the only patents that defendant had marked products with. So, this term may effectively be a complete release of all possible false marking claims.
Neither party admits or denies the constitutionality of the false marking statute.

Continue Reading False Patent Marking: Filed Settlement Agreement

Heathcote Holdings Corp., Inc. v. Leapfrog Enters., Inc., No. 10 C 1471, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Dec. 27, 2010) (Coar, J.).
Judge Coar transferred plaintiff Heathcote’s false patent marking case to the Northern District of California. Because Heathcote was a relator standing in the shoes of the federal government, Heathcote’s chosen forum was given little deference. All of defendant’s witnesses — party and non-party alike — were located in California. Additionally, the relevant evidence was located in defendant’s California offices. And Heathcote was unlikely to have much relevant evidence. The Court, therefore, transferred the case.

Continue Reading False Marking Plaintiff’s Chosen Form Not Given Deference

Simonian v. Allergan, Inc., No. 10 C 2414, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 30, 2010) (St. Eve, J.).
Judge St. Eve denied defendant Allergan’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Simonian’s false patent marking claim regarding Allergan’s RESTASIS product. The Court, citing its Blistex decision, held that false patent marking claims were subject to Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) heightened pleading requirements. Simonian’s general averment that Allergan marked with an allegedly expired patent with an intent to deceive was sufficient, without more facts.
The Court also held that the fact that RESTASIS was marked with an unexpired patent, did not insulate Allergan from marking with an expired patent as well, citing Clontech Labs., Inc. v. Invitrogen Corp., 406 F.3d 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2005). In Clontech, the Federal Circuit explained that “an unpatented article” was one “not covered by at least one claim of each patent with which the article is marked.” Id. at 1352 (emphasis added).

Continue Reading Marking With an Unexpired Patent Not Fixed by Also Marking with a Live Patent

Simonian v. Blistex, Inc., No. 10 C 1201, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 3, 2010) (St. Eve, J.).
Judge St. Eve denied defendant Blistex’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) motion to dismiss Simonian’s false patent marking case. As an initial matter, the fact that most of Simonian’s statements were made upon information and belief did not require dismissal. The Court then held that false patent marking, or at least its intent requirement, was subject to Rule 9(b) heightened pleading. But Simonian met that standard by pleading that Blistex allegedly falsely marked its lip-ointment products with an expired patent.

Continue Reading False Patent Marking Claims Subject to Rule 9(b) Pleading

Zojo Sol’ns., Inc. v. Leviton Mfg. Co., No. 10 C 881, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2010) (Grady, Sen. J.).
Judge Grady granted defendant Leviton’s 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) motion to transfer this false patent marking case to the Eastern District of New York. Plaintiff Zojo’s choice of forum was given little deference because Zojo was a qui tam plaintiff. The location of Leviton’s witnesses and documents in New York combined with the fact that Leviton’s New York headquarters was the situs for the alleged false marking, favored transfer. That was true even though the Eastern District of New York was a slightly faster court. The most interesting aspect of the decision, however, was a statement that the Local Patent Rules did not apply to false patent marking cases because patent infringement was not alleged. Presumably, the analysis is different if the alleged false marking involves a marked product that allegedly does not fall within the claims of the marked patent.

Continue Reading Local Patent Rules Do Not Apply to False Marking with Expired Patents

Simonian v. Edgecraft Corp., No. 10 C 1263, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 20, 2010) (Grady, Sen. J.).
Judge Grady granted defendant Edgecraft’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff Simonian’s false patent marking claims. The Federal Circuit’s recent decisions rejected two of Edgecraft’s three arguments. In Stauffer, the Federal Circuit held that any individual had standing to sue for false marking without regard to injury in fact. And in Solo Cup, the Federal Circuit held that marking with an expired patent could constitute false patent marking.
The Court, however, held that Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) heightened pleading standards applied to the intent to deceive requirement. Simonian’s “bare allegations” – and otherwise only “mere labels and conclusions” – at best suggested a “possibility of misconduct,” not intent. While Rule 9(b) does allow intent to be pled generally, the allegations must create a reasonable inference that defendant acted with the necessary intent.

Continue Reading False Patent Marking Plaintiff Must Meet Rule 9(b) Pleading for Intent

McNamara v. Natural Organics, Inc., No. 10 C 3544, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 1, 2010) (Shadur, Sen. J.).
Judge Shadur denied defendant’s motion to stay this false patent marking case pending the Federal Circuit’s standing decision in Stauffer (Stauffer has since been decided). The Court also dismissed plaintiff’s second amended complaint for failure to plead the requisite intent to deceive pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b) heightened pleading standards. Plaintiff attempted to plead intent upon information and belief using a nine-year-old statement made on defendant’s behalf about its skilled legal representative in an FTC proceeding. But that quoted language referred to a lawyer who was deceased, and he had passed away even before the FTC proceeding. Because plaintiff had already been given two chances to replead, the Court dismissed the case.

Continue Reading False Marking Case Dismissed With Prejudice for Failure to Plead Intent