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Blackberry Ltd. v. Nokia Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 20, 2018



         Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Claims of Willful Infringement, Indirect Infringement, and Direct Infringement in Its Amended Complaint (D.I. 26). The issues have been fully briefed. (D.I. 27, 33, 38). For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion is GRANTED-IN-PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 14, 2017, Plaintiff BlackBerry Limited filed this patent infringement action against Defendants Nokia Corporation, Nokia Solutions and Networks Oy ("NSN Oy"), Nokia Solutions and Network Holdings USA, Inc. ("NSN Holdings USA"), and Nokia Solutions and Networks U.S. LLC ("NSN US"). (D.I. 1). Nokia Corporation and NSN Oy are Finnish companies, each having its principal place of business in Finland. (D.I. 21, ¶¶ 9-10). NSN Holdings USA and NSN U.S. are entities organized under the laws of Delaware, each having its principal place of business in Texas. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12). NSN Oy and NSN Holdings USA are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Nokia Solutions and Networks B.V., which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nokia Finance International B.V., which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nokia Corporation. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11). NSN U.S. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NSN Holdings USA. (Id. ¶ 12).

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint on June 5, 2017. (D.I. 14). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 26, 2017. (D.I. 21). Plaintiffs amended complaint accuses all four Nokia Defendants (collectively referred to as "Nokia"[1] throughout the amended complaint) of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 6, 996, 418 ("the '418 patent"); 8, 254, 246 ("the '246 patent"); 8, 494, 090 ("the '090 patent"); 7, 529, 305 ("the '305 patent"); 8, 861, 433 ("the '433 patent"); 9, 426, 697 ("the '697 patent"); 9, 253, 772 ("the '772 patent"); 8, 897, 192 ("the '192 patent"); 9, 125, 202 ("the '202 patent"); 8, 243, 683 ("the '683 patent"); and 8, 644, 829 ("the '829 patent") owned by Plaintiff. (D.I. 21, ¶ 6). Plaintiff asserts claims of direct infringement, indirect infringement, and willful infringement against Nokia. (E.g., Id. ¶¶ 116-120, 125).


         Rule 8 requires a complainant to provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) allows the accused party to bring a motion to dismiss the claim for failing to meet this standard. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion may be granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the complainant, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         "Though 'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Davis v. Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). I am "not required to credit bald assertions or legal conclusions improperly alleged in the complaint." In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 216 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint may not be dismissed, however, "for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted." See Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014).

         A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has "substantive plausibility." Id. at 347. That plausibility must be found on the face of the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Deciding whether a claim is plausible will "be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.


         A. Direct Infringement

         The parties dispute whether Plaintiffs standards-based infringement pleading alleges sufficient facts to connect the accused products to the asserted claims. (D.I. 27, pp. 17-20; D.I. 33, pp. 18-20). I conclude that the amended complaint's infringement pleadings are adequate in this regard.

         Defendants also assert that Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to support a direct infringement claim against any single Defendant. (D.I. 27, p. 16). Since the amended complaint combines infringement allegations against all four Defendants, referring to them collectively as "Nokia, " Defendants maintain that the amended complaint "does not provide adequate notice as to each Defendant's role in allegedly infringing the patents-in-suit." (Id. p. 16). Plaintiff responds that it has adequately charged each Defendant with conduct sufficient to support a direct infringement claim. (D.I. 33, pp. 16-17 (citing D.I. 21, ¶¶ 10-13, 67-71)).

         Plaintiffs induced infringement claims and portions of the amended complaint incorporated by reference in Plaintiffs direct infringement claims allege direct infringement by NSN U.S. and NSN Oy. (See, e.g., D.I. 21, ¶¶ 67, 123, 144). I find plausible Plaintiffs claim that NSN U.S. directly infringes. Plaintiff has alleged no facts, however, to support its claim that NSN Oy, a Finnish company, makes, uses, sells, or offers to sell the accused products in the United States. Plaintiffs unsupported allegation that, "[o]n information and belief, NSN Oy ... oversees the Nokia Networks business unit, " does not provide a sufficient factual basis to support a plausible direct infringement claim against NSN Oy, regardless of the activities of the Nokia Networks business unit. (See Id. ¶ 10).

         The amended complaint otherwise alleges direct infringement of each asserted patent by Nokia. (E.g., Id. ¶¶ 116, 133). Plaintiffs direct infringement claims against NSN Holdings USA and Nokia Corporation appear to be based entirely on these entities' relationships to NSN US. (See Id. ¶¶ 9, 11, 13). "[T]o state a claim based on an alleged parent-subsidiary relationship, a plaintiff would have to allege (1) the existence of a parent-subsidiary relationship, and 2) facts that justify piercing the corporate veil." M2M Solutions LLC v. Telit Commc'ns PLC, 2015 WL 4640400, at *3 (D. Del. Aug. 5, 2015) (citation omitted). The second condition may be satisfied by the "existence of an agency relationship between the entities where the parent effectively controls the conduct of the subsidiary." Id. ...

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