United States District Court, C.D. California
Attorneys for Plaintiffs: John F. Petrsoric.
Present for Defendants: Tony M. Diab, Lynn S. Herndon, Sonal N. Mehta - by telephone, Benjamin L. Singer.
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
PROCEEDINGS: DEFENDANT NAUGHTY DOG, INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (filed 06/10/13; Dkt. No. 105)
Honorable GEORGE H. WU, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Court hears oral argument. The Tentative circulated and attached hereto, is adopted as the Court's final ruling. Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendant Naughty Dog, Inc.'s response to the amended complaint will be due 21 days from the date of this order.
McRO, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Blue v. Naughty Dog, Inc., Case No. CV-12-10335-GW (FFMx) consolidated with McRO, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Blue v. Namco Bandai Games America, Inc., CV 12-10322-GW (FFMx) (LEAD CASE)Tentative Ruling on Defendant Naughty Dog's Motions to Dismiss Amended Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
On December 4, 2012, Plaintiff McRO, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Blue (" Plaintiff" or " Planet Blue" ) filed separate Complaints in this district against sixteen videogame companies (collectively, " Defendants" ). See, e.g., McRO, Inc., d.b.a. Planet Blue v. Namco Bandai Games America, Inc., No. CV 12-10332-GW (FFMx), Docket No. 1. The Complaints alleged that Defendants directly or indirectly infringed Plaintiff's patents for automatically animating the lip synchronization and facial expressions of 3D characters in video and computer games. Id. All sixteen of the Complaints were identical, with the exception of party names and the presence or absence of (verbatim) indirect infringement claims against certain defendants.
Eleven of the sixteen Defendants, not including Naughty Dog, Inc. (" Naughty Dog" ), filed or joined in motions to dismiss, which the Court granted on March 4, 2013. See generally Order, Docket No. 41.
In its Order, the Court held that " the Complaints' generic references to methods that automatically animate lip synchronization and facial expression in Defendants' 'computer and/or videogames'" were " too conclusory and too vague to state a claim for relief." Order at 6. The Court indicated that to survive Defendants' motions, Plaintiff must " identify either a targeted product or a reasonably delineated category of products to give 'fair notice' of the claims being made." Id. " In the context of a dispute involving sixteen video and computer game manufacturers, a detailed description of Defendants' products is all the more necessary because Plaintiff does not allege its inventions cover all methods related to synchronizing facial expressions of animated characters in computer or video games." Id. at 7 (emphasis in original). In dismissing Plaintiff's Complaints with leave to amend, the Court concluded that without a " more detailed description of the allegedly infringing products, Defendants cannot fairly ascertain which of their different implementations of the lip synchronization and facial animation technologies are the 'accused products' described in Plaintiff's Complaints." Id.
Following the dismissal, Plaintiff filed First Amended Complaints (" FACs" ) and then Second Amended Complaints (" SACs" ). See, e.g., Docket Nos. 44, 65. The operative pleadings now provide a list of specific video games as having been made using the patented methods, including the release date and gaming system information for those games. See, e.g., SAC, Docket No. 57-1. The SACs also allege that Defendants " employ software methods and processes to automate the animation of lip synchronization and facial expression for its three-dimensional characters during the creation and development of the [identified games]" that infringe " either literally or by equivalents" one or more claims of the patents in suit. SAC ¶ 15. In addition, the SACs further allege that Defendants infringe by using software processes " for automatically performing and animating character lip synchronization using the phonetic structure of the words to be spoken by the characters." Id. ¶ 17.
On May 6, 2013, Naughty Dog filed a Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. 75. On May 17, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint against Naughty Dog. Docket No. 92. Because the amended complaint mooted the Motion to Dismiss, Naughty Dog withdrew it. Docket No. 94. On June 10, 2013, Naughty Dog filed the instant motion to dismiss portions of the First Amended Complaint, arguing that Plaintiff's allegations fail to state plausible claims for either willful infringement or infringement pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271(g). See Mot., Docket No. 105.
II. Legal Standard
A. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim raises a " purely procedural question not pertaining to patent law," for which courts apply " the law of the regional circuit." McZeal v. Sprint Nextel Corp., 501 F.3d 1354, 1355-56 (Fed. Cir. 2007); In Re Bill of Lading Transmission & Processing Sys. Patent Litig.,
681 F.3d 1323, 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2012); Kelora Sys., LLC v. Target Corp., No. C 11-1058 CW, at *8 n.1 (N.D. Cal. May 31, 2011).
Plaintiffs in federal court are required to give only " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim for one of two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see also Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008) (" Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory." ). A motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint does not proffer enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558-59; see also William O. Gilley Enters., Inc. v. Atl. Richfield Co., 588 F.3d 659, 667 (9th Cir. 2009) (confirming that Twombly pleading requirements " apply in all civil cases" ). " [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not 'show[n]' - 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
B. Infringement under 35 U.S.C. § ...