Sonic Industry v. iRobot: Court Sua Sponte Strikes iRobot's Affirmative Defenses for Failure to Comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

by Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP
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Sonic Industry ("Sonic") filed a patent infringement action against iRobot Corporation ("iRobot"). iRobot filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses to the patent infringement complaint. The district court issued a memorandum order sua sponte because of some "problematic aspects of that responsive pleading."

The district court noted that iRobot had regularly "coupled its invocation of the disclaimer made available under appropriate circumstances by Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 8(b)(5) with the language 'and, therefore, denies those allegations.'" The district court found that these answers were problematic. "But it is of course oxymoronic for a party to assert (presumably in good faith) that it lacks even enough information to form a belief as to the truth of an allegation, then proceed to deny it. Because such a denial is at odds with the pleader's obligations under Rule 11(b), the quoted language is stricken from each of those paragraphs of the Answer."

The district court also found flaws with iRobot's laundry list of affirmative defenses. "iRobot's other flaws lie within the laundry list of no fewer than 10 claimed affirmative defenses ("ADs") that follow the Answer itself." The district court also directed iRobot's counsel to a recent opinion in the Northern District of Illinois. "In general iRobot's counsel would do well to read and absorb App'x ¶ 5 to this Court's opinion in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Riley, 199 F.R.D. 276, 279 (N.D. Ill. 2001), as well as to a review of Rule 8(c) and of the caselaw applying it."

Some examples of what the district court struck:

  1. "AD 1 commits the cardinal sin for AD purposes of not crediting the well-pleaded allegations of Sonic's Complaint, -- in this instance Complaint ¶ 6. Accordingly AD 1 is stricken.
  2. "AD 2 does not suffer from the same defect, but it fails to satisfy the concept of notice pleading (incumbent on defendants as well as plaintiffs) because it is totally vague. It too is stricken, but this time without prejudice to iRobot's advancing a claim of the patent's invalidity in more particularized and fleshed-out form, so that Sonic's counsel and this Court can determine where and in what manner the patent assertedly "fail[s] to satisfy the conditions for patentability specified by Title 35 of the United States Code."
  3. Like AD 1, AD 3 fails to credit5 Sonic's allegations as gospel. It too is stricken.
  4. Because nothing in Sonic's Complaint identifies the alleged dates of infringement, ADs 4 and 5 are appropriate and may be retained in the Answer.
  5. AD 6 suffers from the same problem that is posed by AD 2. It is also stricken, subject to possible reassertion if and when the problem identified as to AD 2 is cured.
  6. ADs 7 through 9 may remain in the case.
  7. AD 10 is mysterious and requires fleshing out to be assertable. Accordingly it is also stricken for the present."

Sonic Industry, LLC v. iRobot Corporation, Case No. 13 C9251 (E.D. Ill. Feb. 28, 2014)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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