United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
For Robert Mankes, Plaintiff: James R. Lawrence, III, Anthony J. Biller, Coats & Bennett, PLLC, Cary, NC.
For Vivid Seats Ltd., Defendant: Richard T. Matthews, LEAD ATTORNEY, Williams Mullen, Raleigh, NC.
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 36). The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for ruling. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion is granted.
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 internet ticket seller. 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). On February 28, 2014, plaintiff filed amended complaint, providing more factual specificity regarding defendant's accused infringing actions.
Plaintiff alleges a system operated by defendant which is used by professional ticket resellers and " pre-screened" individual sellers to allocate available ticket inventory between local and online inventory for sale to internet-based customers 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 April 7, 2014. Thereafter the court initiated the parties' planning and scheduling activities and the following day, 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. On October 15, 2014, defendant filed the instant motion.
Briefly, 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 parties, acting at arm's length, combine to perform all the steps of a claimed method.
In undertaking its analysis, this court is mindful that it accepts as true all well-pleaded allegations of the plaintiff and views them in the light most favorable to him, based on the established law of this circuit, as set forth more particularly below. Plaintiff alleges that the '503 patent, entitled " Active Reservation System," issued November 5, 2002. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8, DE 14; see also DE 14-1). The '503 patent is a method patent with four claims. (DE 14-1). The claimed methods generally address a reservation system that controls an inventory. (Am. Compl. ¶ 7). More specifically, the patent provides a process whereby local vendors or event owners can track and sell their limited inventory both locally, and online. (See DE 14-1, at 12-13). It also allows third parties, using an internet connection, to ...