District Court Grants Motion For More Definitive Statement Because Patent Infringement Claim Involved Complicated Technology
October 17 2018
In Lexington Luminance LLC v. Service Lighting and Electrical Supplies, Inc. d/b/a 1000bulbs.com, 3-18-cv-01074, the District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, but granted its motion for a more definite statement because of the complexity of the patents-in-suit.
In the case, the Defendant argued that the Plaintiff’s complaint for direct patent infringement should be dismissed because the complaint fails to meet the pleading standards set forth by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Defendant further argued that the complaint only sets forth conclusory statements that the accused devices practice the limitations of the patent claim asserted, that the complaint fails to set forth plausible facts to support those conclusory statements, and that the complaint fails to clearly identify the accused devices.
Under the pleading standards of Twombly and Iqbal, a complaint must at a minimum allege plausible facts that give rise to an entitlement for relief. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by conclusory statements are insufficient to meet this pleading standard. Previously, direct patent infringement causes of action were safe from sufficiency of the pleading motions to dismiss based on the Twombly and Iqbal standard as long as the complaint complied with the pleading example of Form 18 provided in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, direct patent infringement causes of action no longer have this protection because Form 18 was abrogated recently, meaning pleadings for direct patent infringement must now conform with the Twombly and Iqbal pleading standards without the benefit of Form 18.
Plaintiff asserted that its complaint complies with the pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal as confirmed by the Federal Circuit’s recent opinion in Disc Disease Solutions, Inc. v. VGH Solutions, Inc., 888 F.3d 1256 (Fed. Cir. 2018). However, in considering Plaintiff’s argument, the District Court noted that in Disc Disease Solutions, the Federal Circuit specifically pointed out that the case involved a simple technology, the complaint specifically accused three products, and photos of the product packaging were attached to the complaint as exhibits. Thus, the Court reasoned that the holding in Disc Disease Solutions is limited to similar circumstances, where considering the technology at issue, the complexity level of the asserted claims, and the nature of the accused devices, simple pleadings supported by photographs may be sufficient to meet the standards of Twombly and Iqbal.
Therefore, the Court determined that the present case is distinguishable from Disc Disease Solutions. The patent in suit in this case, U.S. 6,936,851, is titled “Semiconductor Light Emitting Device and Method for Manufacturing the Same.” The patent discloses a semiconductor light-emitting device having a particular structure and chemical composition. The asserted claim, claim 1, is directed toward a light emitting device having particular physical and chemical properties including: a textured district comprising “a plurality of etched trenches having a sloped etching profile with a smooth rotation of microfacets without a prescribe angle of inclinations”; a layer that forms a “lattice-mismatched misfit system” with a substrate; a substrate that has at least one particular element or 4 compound; and lower portions of the layer “configured to guide extended lattice defects away from propagating into” an active layer. Considering the disclosure provided by the ‘851 patent and the limitations of the asserted claim, the Court determined the technology at issue here is not a simple technology. Instead, the technology at issue is a complicated technology and the claims are directed to an LED light involving a particular structure and chemical composition.
Therefore the Court found a plausible inference that an accused device meets all the limitations of the asserted claims cannot be inferred from the Plaintiff’s bare conclusory allegations. Additional factual information is required under the standards of Twombly and Iqbal. However, the Court did note that the additional factual information need not necessarily be as detailed as that disclosed in infringement contentions. But the Court stated there must at least be some factual support for a plausible inference that the accused devices practice the asserted claim.
Thus, since the complaint failed to set forth factual allegations that meet the pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal, the Court found the Plaintiff’s complaint deficient, and ordered the Plaintiff to amend its complaint to add additional factual allegations in compliance with the pleading standards of Twombly and Iqbal.
Defendant also argued that the complaint is deficient in its identification of accused devices. The complaint specifically identifies the “Bulbrite LED T14 Tubular Bulb, model 776511” as an accused device, but Defendant took issue with the remainder of the accused devices which are described as “other similar products, which perform substantially the same function as the devices embodied in one or more claims of the ‘851 Patent in substantially the same way to achieve the same result.” Defendant asserted that this fails to reasonably inform the Defendant what additional devices are accused devices under this statement.
The Court agreed that the Plaintiff’s identification of additional products was unclear and ambiguous because the statement fails to reasonably inform Defendant as to what additional devices, if any, are accused by this statement. However, the Court found the Plaintiff did reasonably inform Defendant that the Bulbrite LED T14 Tubular Bulb is an accused device, which is sufficient to survive a challenge to the sufficiency of the pleadings. Thus, the Court denied this part of Defendant’s motion.