The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that a federal district court erred by relying on an incorrect pleading standard in dismissing with prejudice two patent infringement complaints involving digital television signals. K-Tech Telecomm., Inc. v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., No. 2012-1425 (Fed. Cir., decided April 18, 2013). According to the district court, plaintiff K-Tech Telecommunications “failed to allege sufficient factual detail regarding Defendant’s accused product and the manner in which it is infringing Plaintiff’s patents” and thus “failed to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for patent infringement under the standards articulated in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009).”
The Federal Circuit reiterated its position that a plaintiff’s proper use of Form 18 “effectively immunizes a claimant from attack regarding the sufficiency of the pleading.” And “to the extent any conflict exists between Twombly (and its progeny) and the Forms regarding pleadings requirements, the Forms control.” Still, the court did not “seek to create conflict where none exists. A complaint containing just enough information to satisfy a governing form may well be sufficient under Twombly and Iqbal.” Because the district court required the plaintiff, under the plausibility pleading standard of those two cases, to “preemptively identify and rebut potential non-infringing alternatives to practicing the claims of an asserted patent,” the Federal Circuit determined that it erred. “Form 18 includes no indication that a patent holder must prospectively anticipate such noninfringement arguments.”
Noting that “Form 18 in no way relaxes the clear principle of [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8], that a potential infringer be placed on notice of what activity or device is being accused of infringement,” the court found that this plaintiff’s proper use of the form satisfied its analytic touchstones—notice and facial plausibility. The court remanded the matter for further proceedings.