June 15, 2012
Last week, the Federal Circuit clarified the pleading standard for patent infringement claims in In re Bill of Lading Transmission and Processing System Patent Litigation.
To sufficiently state a claim for relief in federal court, a plaintiff must make a short and plain statement of the claim. Plaintiffs who assert patent infringement often model complaints after Form 18, which is a sample complaint in the Appendix of Forms to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, however, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009), interpreted the Federal Rules to require that a complaint “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” This standard called into question the adequacy of a complaint modeled after Form 18.
The Federal Circuit addressed the issue in In re Bill of Lading. Patent owner R+L Carriers, Inc. (“R+L”) alleged that six appellees each indirectly infringed R+L’s patent. The defendants argued that R+L’s complaints were deficient because they did not describe precisely how each element of the asserted claims was practiced by the alleged direct infringers. The Federal Circuit rejected this argument, stating that such a standard is too stringent. The court held that “to the extent the parties argue that Twombly and its progeny conflict with the Forms and create differing pleadings requirements, the Forms control.” Therefore, “[a]s long as the complaint in question contains sufficient factual allegations to meet the requirements of Form 18, the complaint has sufficiently pled direct infringement.” The court held that R+L had adequately pled direct infringement and induced infringement.
This decision is significant in that it clarifies the pleading standard for assertion of patent infringement. For more information on this decision, please contact Fitch Even partner Steven C. Schroer.
--Written by Fitch Even attorney Brett J. Smith