Friday, October 3, 2014

“Clueless Masterminds” do not Direct and Control Defendant’s Performance of Method Steps

The court sua sponte found as a matter of law that plaintiff did not have a viable induced infringement claim because the underlying direct infringement required performance of method steps by different entities and plaintiff could not establish direction and control by one of the entities. "[P]laintiffs contend that the assisted users 'direct and control' defendants to perform the requisite steps of the claimed methods merely by initiating a captioned call. . . . Plaintiffs’ theory of 'direction and control' is that [defendant's] relay system is designed in such a way as to 'always and automatically' generate and transmit captions whenever any new call is initiated by a user. That the defendants allegedly lack control to decline to provide captioning to incoming calls, however, is not the same as showing that assisted users exercise the necessary control or direction over the performance of the method steps such that 'every step is attributable to [the users].' Notably, plaintiffs do not allege that the assisted users control [defendant's] servers or have any influence over the operation of its call centers. They do not allege that the assisted users provide any instructions or directions to [defendant] about how it should generate captions and they do not allege that the assisted users receive any portion of the payments received by [defendant] for providing its relay service. In fact, plaintiffs do not even allege that the customers have any knowledge whatsoever of where, how or by whom captions are generated. The assisted users, in other words, are clueless masterminds."

Ultratec, Inc. et al v. Sorenson Communications, Inc. et al, 3-13-cv-00346 (WIWD October 1, 2014, Order) (Crabb, J.)

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