Although motions to strike are generally difficult to win, when successful they can significantly dim the opposing party’s prospects for victory on particular claims or defenses.  In one recent patent infringement action out of Massachusetts, each party moved to strike certain elements of the other side’s pleadings–but the Court quickly snuffed out the dueling motions.

Plaintiff  Lexington, owner of a patent relating to LED technology, sued defendants TCL and TTE, alleging that their manufacture and sale of certain televisions included components that infringed the Lexington patent.  In the initial stages of the litigation, Lexington filed a first amended complaint (“FAC”) on August 1, 2016, and roughly four month later, filed a second amended complaint (“SAC”).  Shortly thereafter, Defendants moved to strike or dismiss the SAC, claiming that Lexington had filed it without Defendants’ consent. Lexington countered by moving to strike the defendants’ affirmative defenses.

With respect to Defendants’ motion to strike the SAC, Defendants argued that the FAC was filed under Rule 15(a)(1) as of right and the SAC was then filed without consent or leave from the Court.  In its response, Lexington provided email correspondence between the parties where Defendants’ counsel suggested that “Lexington file an amended complaint identifying the correct defendants…[to] have a clean procedural record.” Lexington claimed that this suggestion amounted to Defendants’ consent to file the FAC–a claim that Defendants disputed.

Judge Casper determined that, based on the correspondence, “any mistaken belief by Lexington’s counsel with respect to the FAC was, at a minimum, a good faith error.”  Because its counsel’s failure to obtain consent for the FAC was mere accident and Lexington otherwise acted in good faith, the Court ruled that “it is not in the interests of justice” to grant the motion to strike the SAC.  Judge Casper granted Lexington leave to amend the FAC and denied Defendants’ motion to strike the SAC as moot.

Next, the Court turned to Defendant’s motion to dismiss the SAC under Rule 12(b)(6).  Defendants contended that both Lexington’s claim of direct infringement and its claims of induced and willful infringement failed to satisfy the pleading requirements of Iqbal and Twombly.  With respect to direct infringement, Defendants claimed that the pleading failed to inform them of the specific structures in the accused products that infringe claim 1 of the patent-in-suit.  Judge Casper found that the SAC set forth a plausible infringement claim, because it identifies the patent claim that has been infringed, the infringed elements of that claim, and both the function of the infringed elements in the accused products and the marketing of that function in the accused products’ instruction manuals.  The Court rejected Defendants’ position that further specificity with respect to direct infringement is required in the SAC.

Similarly, Judge Casper found that Lexington’s claims for induced and willful infringement in the SAC were plausible because they include allegations that Defendants, through various notices related to either pre-lawsuit correspondence or filings in this case, had knowledge of the patent-in-suit and of their devices’ infringement of the patent.  In addition, the SAC alleges that, by manufacturing and distributing the Accused Products and providing instruction manuals for their use, Defendants have caused third-party resellers and end-users of the Accused Products to infringe the patent-in-suit.  As such, the Court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Lastly, Judge Casper denied Lexington’s motion to strike certain affirmative defenses raised by Defendants, on the basis that the defenses “are more than adequate to give Lexington fair notice” of the issued involved.

The Court’s opinion in this matter provides an illuminating look at the rigor with which motions to strike are evaluated, and the challenges that parties face in trying to convince a judge that certain claims and pleadings should be shut down.  The case is Lexington Luminance LLC v. TCL Multimedia Technology Holdings, Ltd. No. 16-cv-11458-DJC (D. Mass.), before Hon. Denise J. Casper.  A copy of the decision can be found here.