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Sprint Communications Co. L.P. v. Charter Communications, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 7, 2019

SPRINT COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY, L.P., Plaintiff,
v.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants. SPRINT COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY, L.P., Plaintiff,
v.
FRONTIER COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION, Defendant.

          Shanti M. Katona, POLSINELLI, Wilmington, DE; Ryan J. Schletzbaum (argued), SHOOK, HARDY & BACON L.L.P., Kansas City, MO; Robert H. Reckers, SHOOK, HARDY & BACON L.L.P., Houston, TX. Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Kelly E. Farnan, RICHARDS, LAYTON & FINGER, P.A., Wilmington, DE; Luke L. Dauchot, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Chicago, IL; David Benyacar and Robert J. Katerberg (argued), ARNOLD & PORTER KAYE SCHOLER LLP, New York, NY. Attorneys for Defendant Charter Communications, Inc.

          Philip A. Rovner, POTTER ANDERSON & CORROON LLP, Wilmington, DE; Brian M. Buroker (argued), GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER LLP, Washington, D.C. Attorneys for Defendant Frontier Communications Corporation. March /, 2019

          MEMORANDUM

          ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before me are Plaintiffs Motions to Strike Defendants' Inequitable Conduct Defenses and Dismiss Their Walker Process Claims. (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 38; C.A. 18-536, D.I. 21). The Parties have fully briefed the issues. (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 39, 49, 54, 60, 62; C.A. 18-536, D.I. 22, 32, 37). I heard oral argument on January 22, 2019. (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 95 ("Tr.")). For the reasons set out below, I will deny Plaintiffs Motions as to the inequitable conduct defenses and grant its motion as to the Walker Process claims.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed suit against Charter[1] on December 1, 2017. (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 1). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on December 15, 2017 which alleges that Charter infringes fifteen patents.[2] (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 14). In its answer filed on June 19, 2018, Charter asserts inequitable conduct defenses against nine of the patents and raises a Walker Process counterclaim.[3] (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 33).

         Plaintiff filed suit against Frontier on April 10, 2018 which alleges that Frontier infringes the same fifteen patents. (C.A. 18-536, D.I. 1). On July 6, 2018, Frontier filed an amended answer which asserts inequitable conduct defenses against the same nine patents as the Charter Defendants and raises a Walker Process counterclaim. (C.A. 18-536, D.I. 17).

         Plaintiff filed the present motions on July 24, 2018 (C.A. 17-1734, D.I. 38) and July 27, 2018 (C.A. 18-536, D.I. 21). The motions seek to strike Defendants' inequitable conduct affirmative defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) and to dismiss the Walker Process counterclaims for failing to state a claim pursuant Rule 12(b)(6).[4] (D.I. 39 at l).[5]

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 Atl. 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 complainant 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 [complainant] pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the [accused] 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.

         Rule 9 adds a heightened pleading standard for allegations of fraud. It states, "In alleging fraud or mistake, a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake." Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Although, "[m]alice, intent, knowledge, and other conditions of a person's mind may be alleged generally." Id. Rule 9(b) requires a complainant to plead "all of the essential factual background that would accompany the first paragraph of any newspaper story-that is, the who, what, when, where and how of the events at issue." In re Rockefeller, 311 F.3d at 217 (internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 9(b) requires a complainant to provide both a "theoretically viable claim" and the factual allegations that make it plausible. Id. at 216 (emphasis in original omitted).

         B. ...


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