United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
For Robert Mankes, Plaintiff, Counter Defendant: James R. Lawrence, III, Anthony J. Biller, Coats & Bennett, PLLC, Cary, NC.
For Fandango, LLC, Defendant, Counter Claimant: Robert J. Morris, LEAD ATTORNEY, Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan, LLP, Raleigh, NC; Michael W. Mitchell, Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, Raleigh, NC; Sharon L. Davis, Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, P.C., Washington, DC.
LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, United States District Judge.
This matter comes before the court on defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (DE 55). Also pending before the court is plaintiff's motion to dismiss defendant's counterclaims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, under Rule 12(b)(6). (DE 50). For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted. The court holds in abeyance decision on plaintiff's motion pending further briefing.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Plaintiff, inventor and owner of United States Patent Number 6,477,503 (" the '503 patent" ) which is generally directed to a reservation system that controls inventory, filed complaint October 14, 2013, against defendant, an online retailer of movie tickets. The complaint alleges defendant directly infringed the '503 patent in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271(a) and induced infringement of the '503 patent, in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271(b). Defendant responded with a motion to dismiss later mooted by the court's allowance of plaintiff's motion to amend, resulting in an amended complaint filed March 7, 2014.
Plaintiff alleges a system operated by defendant which is used throughout the country by theaters for selling movie tickets which uses some of the steps of the claimed invention. The other steps of the invention allegedly are induced by defendant to be performed by its customers. Plaintiff seeks a declaration of infringement, an injunction, accounting, and damages.
Defendant denied liability in answer filed March 24, 2014. Defendant also asserted two counterclaims: 1) non-infringement and 2) invalidity. The court earlier had sought to initiate the parties' planning and scheduling activities, precipitating defendant's motion to phase discovery, filed March 7, 2014.
However, before the court could address that motion, on April 11, 2014, the parties jointly moved to stay proceedings pending the outcome of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 2111, 189 L.Ed.2d 52 (2014). The Supreme Court issued its opinion in Limelight Networks on June 2, 2014, and after some maneuvering related to the Federal Circuit's response to that decision, and whether a continued stay of this case, as urged by plaintiff, would be appropriate, ultimately stay was lifted.
Plaintiff filed his motion to dismiss defendant's counterclaims on September 3, 2014. On October 15, 2014, defendant filed its motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Briefly, in its motion for judgment on the pleadings, defendant argues plaintiff's allegations belie both his infringement and inducement claims. In particular, defendant argues plaintiff has not alleged direct infringement, where he fails to allege defendant performs every step of any claim, or that defendant exercises control over other parties committing some of the steps of the claimed methods. In addition, defendant contends plaintiff has not alleged inducement, as the facts do not support the inference the '503 patent has been directly infringed.
Plaintiff does not dispute that no one entity performs every step of any claim. Rather, plaintiff contends defendant misstates the applicable legal standard for infringement and argues defendant has infringed, or induced the infringement of, the '503 patent because defendant and certain third ...