The Federal Circuit Clarifies the Specificity Requirement in Complaints for Direct, Induced, and Contributory Patent InfringementOctober 5, 2016

In Lyda v. CBS, the Federal Circuit held that a complaint alleging joint and/or contributory infringement must provide factual allegations for each claim element.

Regarding direct infringement, “the pleading requirements of Form 18 [a complaint template provided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] suffice to survive a motion to dismiss”as the form “effectively immunizes a claimant from attack regarding the sufficiency of the pleading.”In particular, the minimal requirements contained within Form 18 are: (1) an “allegation of jurisdiction,”(2) a statement that the plaintiff owns the patent,”(3) a statement that defendant has been infringing the patent “by making, selling, and using [the device] embodying the patent,”(4) “a statement that the plaintiff has given the defendant notice of its infringement”and (5) “a demand for an injunction and damages.‚¬

However, the pleading requirements change for claims of induced, or contributory/joint patent infringement. Both of these forms of infringement contain additional elements not found in direct infringement claims. As a result, a complaint alleging induced or contributory patent infringement will not be sufficiently stated merely by the use of Form 18. Rather, the pleading requirements set forth in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (collectively known as “Twiqbal‚¬) apply to claims of induced and contributory infringement. In order to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint involving induced and/or contributory infringement must allege specific and sufficient facts which, if taken as true, state a plausible claim for relief. In terms of a method patent, the Federal Circuit noted the facts plausibly plead must be “sufficient to allow a reasonable inference that all steps of the claimed method [were] performed.‚¬

In this case, each count of Lyda’s complaint implicated joint infringement of method patents where infringement allegedly occurred through the direction or control over independent contractors, who in turn directed or controlled unnamed third parties. However, Lyda’s complaint didn’t provide factual allegations of CBS’s direction or control over the performance of the method steps by third parties. Consequently, the Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal for a failure to state a claim.

The net effect of this ruling for parties considering a filing suit is an awareness of the fact that Form 18 remains sufficient for direct infringement. However, parties alleging induced or contributory infringement must be careful to comply with the heightened pleading requirements of Twiqbal—namely factual allegations for each claim element—in order to survive a motion to dismiss.

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