Patent Case Summaries - July 2021 #1

Alston & Bird

A weekly summary of the precedential patent-related opinions issued by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the opinions designated precedential or informative by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Bot M8 LLC v. Sony Corp. of America, et al., No. 2020-2218 (Fed. Cir. (N.D. Cal.) July 13, 2021). Opinion by O’Malley, joined by Dyk and Linn.

Bot M8 filed a complaint accusing Sony of infringing several patents related to gaming machines. At the case management conference, the district court directed Bot M8 to file an amended complaint specifying “every element of every claim that you say is infringed and/or explain why it can’t be done.”

Bot M8 filed the amended complaint, prompting Sony to move to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The district court granted the motion as to four of the asserted patents, finding that Bot M8’s allegations too closely tracked the claim language and had no underlying allegations of fact. Bot M8 then requested leave to file a second amended complaint, which the court denied, and requested reconsideration, which the court also denied.

The dismissal order left one patent in the case. As to that patent, the district court granted Sony’s motion for summary judgment of invalidity under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Applying the two-step Alice framework, the district court found that the asserted claim is directed to an abstract idea and lacked any inventive concept.

The Federal Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

First, addressing the dismissal of four of the asserted patents, the Federal Circuit disagreed with the pleading standard applied by the district court. The Federal Circuit explained that a plaintiff need not allege “every element of every claim that you say is infringed and/or explain why it can’t be done” as the district court had required. The Federal Circuit “reiterate[d] that a plaintiff need not prove its case at the pleadings stage.” Instead, the factual allegations in the complaint must be “sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.” The Federal Circuit explained that a plaintiff “is not required to plead infringement on an element-by-element basis.” But if a plaintiff elects to do so, it is insufficient for the allegations simply to “recit[e] the claim elements and merely conclud[e] that the accused product has those elements.”

Applying the proper pleading standard, the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal as to two of the patents, but ruled that the district court erred in dismissing the other two patents. For those, the district court had “simply required too much.” The allegations in the amended complaint “plausibly allege[d] infringement.”

Finally, the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment ruling of invalidity under § 101. In so ruling, the court simply stated that, “after careful consideration, we discern no error in the district court’s § 101 analysis, and find no need to discuss that analysis in any detail.”

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