The opinion of the court was delivered by: David O. Carter United States District Judge
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS
Before the Court are three motions: 1) a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. 52) filed by Defendant Probiohealth, LLC ("Defendant"); 2) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claim (Dkt. 53); and 3) a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 49) filed by Plaintiff Vita-Herb Nutriceuticals, Inc. ("Plaintiff"). Oral arguments were heard by the Court on March 4, 2013. After considering all moving papers and oral arguments, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and, because that holding is based on a determination that this Court no longer has subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff's claim, the Court accordingly denies the parties' respective motions for summary judgment as moot.
The gravamen of Plaintiff's Complaint is that Plaintiff's principal, Bing Baksh, is a co-inventor of U.S. Patent No. 7,214,370 ("the '370 Patent") and that Defendant caused Baksh's name to be removed as a co-inventor from the patent application after another co-inventor assigned his interest in the '370 Patent to Defendant. Plaintiff brought two claims, the First Claim seeking a judicial declaration that Bing Baksh is "joint inventor of" the '370 Patent, the Second Claim seeking a judicial declaration that Plaintiff Vita-Herb Nutriceuticals is an owner of the '370 Patent because Baksh assigned his interest to Plaintiff. See Compl. (Dkt. 1) at 6-8.
a.Defendant's Previous Motion for Summary Judgment
On April 23, 2012, Defendant filed its first Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 19), arguing that a General Release signed on June 12, 2006, barred Plaintiff's claims. After a hearing and additional briefing, on September 6, 2012, the Court denied in part and granted in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant only as to Plaintiff's Second Claim for ownership. See Order (Dkt. 33) at 13-14.
In its Order, the Court held that the key question regarding whether or not the General Release barred Plaintiff's claims was whether or not those claims existed at the time the General Release was signed. See Order at 12 (interpreting "the General Release to release only those claims that Plaintiff had--that is, claims already in existence--as of the date the Plaintiff signed the General Release"). The Court went on to find that the General Release did notbar Plaintiff's First Claim for a declaration of Baksh's joint inventorship because, as a matter of law, that claim "did not arise until the '370 Patent issued on March 8, 2007--well after the General Release was signed." Id.
However, the Court held that the General Release did bar Plaintiff's Second Claim for a declaration that Plaintiff Vita-Herb Nutriceuticals was an owner of the '370 Patent, because this claim for ownership existed at the time of the signing of the General Release on June 12, 2006. See Order at 13-14. The Court found that, in contrast to Plaintiff's First Claim for Inventorship, here "nothing precluded Plaintiff from seeking declaratory relief" at the time of the signing "to determine 'who owns legal title to the subject matter claimed in a patent.'" Id. at 14 (quoting Beech Aircraft Corp. v. EDO Corp., 990 F.2d 1237, 1248 (Fed. Cir. 1993)).
Plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. 45) on October 2, 2012, which was denied by the Court on January 23, 2013. See Minute Order (Dkt. 68).
b.Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and the Parties' Motions for Summary Judgment
In light of the Court's determination that Plaintiff's only remaining claim is one for correction of inventorship pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 256, Defendant now moves for judgment on the pleadings. Defendant argues that Plaintiff lacks the standing required to confer subject matter jurisdiction on this Court. See Def's Mot. (Dkt. 52) at 1. Because this motion, which was filed concurrently with Defendant's Second Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 53) and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 49), involves the threshold issue of jurisdiction, the Court considers jurisdiction before turning to the parties' respective motions for summary judgment.
II.Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
"After the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). If a party raises an issue as to the court's subject matter jurisdiction on a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, "the district judge will treat the motion as if it had been brought under Rule 12(b)(1)." San Luis Unit Food Producers v. United States, 772 F. Supp. 2d 1210, 1218 (E.D. Cal. 2011) aff'd, 2013 WL 765206 (9th Cir. Mar. 1, 2013) (quoting 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal ...