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Tormasi v. Western Digital Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 21, 2019




         Pending before the Court is Defendant Western Digital Corporation's motion to dismiss. Dkt. No. 19. Defendant argues that Plaintiff Walter A. Tormasi lacks standing to bring suit because he does not hold title to United States Patent Nos. 7, 324, 301 (“the '301 Patent”) and lacks capacity to sue because he is an inmate prohibited from conducting business. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff fails to plausibly allege willful patent infringement. For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action on February 12, 2019, alleging infringement of the '301 Patent. Dkt. No. 1 (“Compl.). The '301 Patent is titled “Striping Data Simultaneously Across Multiple Platter Surfaces” and “pertains to the field of magnetic storage and retrieval of digital information.” Id. ¶ 1, Ex. C.

         Independent claim 41 describes:

41. An actuator mechanism, said mechanism comprising at least two arms, said arms assigned to different circular carrier surfaces within an information storage and retrieval apparatus; and means for moving said arms simultaneously and independently across corresponding carrier surfaces with a component of movement in a radial direction with respect to said carrier surfaces.

Id. Ex. C. at 12:5-11. Numerous claims depend from Claim 41, including, as relevant here Claim 61:

61. The mechanism of claim 41 wherein said actuator mechanism comprises a primary actuator and at least two secondary actuators, wherein the primary actuator comprises at least two primary arms, said primary arms being only unitarily movable; and the secondary actuators are subdevices that are individually affixed to the tip of each primary arm, with each said secondary actuator supporting one read/write member, wherein in its operative mode, said primary actuator executes means for providing initial general positioning by unitarily moving said secondary actuators to an approximate radial positions; and in its operative mode, said secondary actuators execute means for providing precise independent secondary position by independently moving said read/write members to specific radial positions corresponding to particular concentric circular tracks on the respective carrier surfaces.

Id. Ex. C. at 12:61-13:9. Nine claims depend from Claim 61 and add further limitations such as (1) “wherein said secondary actuators are microactuators” (Claim 62) and (2) “wherein secondary actuators are microelectromechanisms” (Claim 63). Id. Ex. C. at 13:10-13. Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant manufactures, markets, sells, distributes and/or imports hard disk drives . . . containing dual-stage actuator systems comprising primary and secondary actuation devices, ” which “feature every structural element and limitation of claims 41, 61, 62, and 63” of the '301 Patent. Id. ¶ 21, 26.

         On April 25, 2019, Defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss, for which briefing is complete. Dkt. No. 19 (“Mot.”), 23 (“Opp.”), and 26 (“Reply”). Plaintiff filed a related administrative motion for nunc pro tunc objection to evidence in Defendant's Reply, Dkt. No. 27, and a motion to strike Defendant's response to Plaintiff's administrative motion, Dkt. No. 29.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). “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.” Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when a plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In reviewing the plausibility of a complaint, courts “accept factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Nonetheless, Courts do not “accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001)). Even if the court concludes that a 12(b)(6) motion should be granted, the “court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (quotation omitted).

         III. ...

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