Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Willfulness Claim Requires Knowledge of Patent by Employees with “Some Connection” to Infringement

The court denied defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's willful infringement claim for failure to sufficiently plead knowledge of the patent-in-suit. "While courts have emphasized the importance of pleading the defendant’s knowledge of the patent-in-suit, when, as here, the defendant is a corporation, this pleading requirement should be evaluated through the scope of corporate law and agency principles. . . . In the context of willful infringement, it is safe to say that the employees required to have knowledge of the asserted patent must have some connection to the decision willfully to infringe. . . . According to [plaintiff's] complaint, [defendant] learned of the [patent-in-suit] when it acquired . . . employees who were the inventors of [certain] patents. The former . . . employees were aware of the [patent-in-suit] because it was cited to them in the prosecution history of [their] patents.. . . . [Defendant's] arguments, especially those that the . . . inventors would have forgotten [plaintiff's] patent, go to the weight of the evidence rather than the sufficiency of [plaintiff's] allegations. . . . One can reasonably infer that [the acquired employees], who themselves knew of the [patent-in-suit], later had a connection to [defendant's] willful infringement."

Potter Voice Technologies LLC, v. Apple, Inc., et. al., 4-13-cv-01710 (CAND January 6, 2014, Order) (Wilken, J.)

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