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Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P. v. Powder Springs Logistics, LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 7, 2019

SUNOCO PARTNERS MARKETING & TERMINALS L.P., Plaintiff,
v.
POWDER SPRINGS LOGISTICS, LLC, and MAGELLAN MIDSTREAM PARTNERS, L.P. Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHRISTOPHER J. BURKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court in this patent infringement case is Defendants Powder Springs Logistics, LLC ("Powder Springs") and Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P.'s ("Magellan," and collectively with Powder Springs, "Defendants") motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (the "Motion"). (D.I. 138) Defendants argue that the patents asserted by Plaintiff Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P. ("Sunoco" or "Plaintiff) are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101 and that Plaintiffs allegations of willful infringement fail to meet the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standard. This Report and Recommendation will address the Motion as it relates to Plaintiffs allegations of willful infringement only.[1] For the reasons that follow, the Court recommends that the Motion be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This is a patent case arising from Plaintiffs allegations that Defendants infringe five of Plaintiffs patents. Those patents are United States Patent Nos. 9, 494, 948 (the '"948 patent"), 9, 606, 548 (the "'548 patent"), 9, 207, 686 (the '"686 patent"), 6, 679, 302 (the '"302 patent"), 7, 032, 629 (the '"629 patent") (collectively, "the asserted patents" or "the patents-in-suit"). The patents-in-suit relate to the blending of butane and gasoline. The Court hereby incorporates the summary of the technology at issue and of the patents-in-suit that is set out in its January 8, 2018 Report and Recommendation. (D.I. 68 at 1-8)

         B. Procedural Background

         On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed the original Complaint asserting direct infringement and willful infringement of the '948 and '548 patents (the "original patents-in-suit"). (D.I. I)[2]Two days later, Plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, (D.I. 6), which was later denied, (D.I. 68; D.I. 141).

         Defendants filed a first motion to dismiss ("first motion to dismiss") on November 15, 2017, arguing that the original patents-in-suit claim patent-ineligible subject matter. (D.I. 27) At that time, Defendants did not argue that the Complaint's allegations of willful infringement (regarding infringement of the original patents-in-suit) were deficient. (Id.) The parties fully briefed that first motion to dismiss, (D.I. 29; D.I. 45; D.I. 56), and on December 8, 2017, the Court held oral argument on the first motion to dismiss and on Plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction.

         On August 2, 2018, before the Court had decided Defendants' first motion to dismiss, the parties stipulated to Plaintiffs filing of a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (D.I. 128; D.I.132) The FAC added allegations of direct infringement and willful infringement of the '686, '302, and '629 patents (the "new patents-in-suit"). (D.I. 132)

         On September 17, 2018, Defendants filed the instant Motion (also referred to herein as the "second motion to dismiss"). (D.I. 138) Four days after Plaintiff filed its answering brief regarding the second motion to dismiss, (D.I. 145), the parties stipulated to the filing of a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), (D.I. 148). The parties also stipulated that "the briefing filed in connection with such Motions[] shall apply to Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint[.]" (Id. at 1) The SAC (which is largely similar to the FAC, but includes, inter alia, some new allegations regarding direct and willful infringement) was filed thereafter on October 9, 2018 and is now Plaintiff s operative pleading. (D.I. 149)

         Briefing on the instant Motion was completed on October 15, 2018. (D.I. 153) The Court heard oral argument on the Motion on November 30, 2018. (D.I. 197 (hereinafter, "Tr."))

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         When presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court conducts a two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside,578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the court separates the factual and legal elements of a claim, accepting "all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but [disregarding] any legal conclusions." Id. at 210-11. Second, the court determines "whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the ...


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