Patent Complaint IDs Software Suite, Passes Iqbal/Twombley

A complaint alleging patent infringement by a suite of four software products met the Iqbal/Twombley standard, said a court in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss.  Gracenote, Inc. v. Sorenson Media, Inc., Case No. 2:16-cv-950 CW (D. Utah May 15, 2017).  U.S. Patent Nos. 9,143,718, 6,230,192, and 9,414,008, are directed to media playback and streaming; the plaintiff alleged, that the defendant’s “Spark” platform, an “automatic content recognition platform used in television broadcasting,” infringed claims of the patents.  The defendant argued that the Spark platform was actually four separate products, and that the plaintiff’s complaint was deficient for simply generally alleging that the Spark platform infringed.  But the court thought that the plaintiff’s complaint provided sufficient detail.

In determining whether the complaint provided the defendant with adequate notice to formulate its responsive pleading, the court placed weight on the complaint’s factual background, which alleged various functionalities of the Spark suite.  The defendant’s argument that “Spark is a brand, not a product, and consists of four separate suites” was to no avail.  The defendant’s “website identifies that the components of its Spark technology . . . work together.”  The plaintiff’s allegations of accused functionality were enough to place the defendant on notice.  The court also, to the consternation of patent infringement defendants everywhere, reasoned that the defendant had “fair notice” based in part on its “superior knowledge of its own products.”

Lessons

The bare-bones complaint for patent infringement sanctioned by the now-abandoned Form 18 is gone, and the Iqbal/Twombley standard governs complaints for patent infringement just as it does other causes of actions.  But that does not mean that every district court will require a claim chart, or even allegations that come close to laying out the plaintiff’s theory of infringement and the facts supporting it.