Matthews Int’l Corp. v. Biosafe Eng’g, LLC, No. 2012-1044 (Sept. 25, 2012).
The Federal Circuit affirmed a dismissal for lack of declaratory-judgment jurisdiction in a case involving patents related to cremation technology. The court found no immediate, concrete dispute to support Article III jurisdiction.
With respect to the method claims at issue, the court keyed on the lack of evidence showing that the declaratory-judgment plaintiff’s non-incineration cremation products will be used in an infringing manner. The plaintiff did not itself use its products. In addition, no customer had yet installed one of plaintiff’s products. And the fact that the plaintiff’s customers could operate the products in an infringing manner upon installation was insufficient; the evidence must show that they would do so. As a result, the plaintiff could not show a sufficiently concrete dispute with respect to direct or indirect infringement. Notably, the court reached this conclusion despite evidence that the declaratory-judgment defendant had orally accused the plaintiff of infringement, had written letters to that effect, and had also made those allegations to plaintiff’s customers and potential customers.
The court reached the same result with respect to the system claims at issue. Those claims issued nearly a month after plaintiff filed the complaint. Because the district court lacked jurisdiction at the time the complaint was filed, it also lacked authority to exercise jurisdiction over the lateradded system claims.