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Virginia Innovation Sciences, Inc. v. Amazon.Com, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

November 18, 2019

VIRGINIA INNOVATION SCIENCES, INC.
v.
AMAZON.COM, INC., et al INNOVATION SCIENCES, LLC
v.
RESIDEO TECHNOLOGIES, INC. INNOVATION SCIENCES, INC.
v.
HTC CORPORATION INNOVATION SCIENCES, INC.
v.
VECTOR SECURITY, INC.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Vector Security, Inc's (“Vector”) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing (Dkt. #163) and Resideo Technologies, Inc.'s (“Resideo”) Notice of Joinder in Vector Security, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing (Dkt. #174). Having reviewed the motion, the notice, and the relevant pleadings, the Court finds that the motion should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         The present lawsuit consists of four separate cases that have been consolidated for pretrial purposes. In two of those cases, Plaintiff asserts U.S. Patent No. 9, 912, 983 (“the ‘983 Patent”) against Defendants Vector and Resideo (collectively “Movants”). Tiejun (“Ronald”) Wang is one of several listed inventors on U.S. patent application no. 11/501, 747 (“the ‘747 application”), which was filed on August 10, 2006. Ronald Wang is also listed as an inventor on the ‘983 Patent along with his sister, Tiehong Wang (“Anne Wong”). On May 10, 2017, Ronald Wang and Anne Wong executed a document purporting to assign their rights in the ‘983 Patent to Virginia Innovation Sciences, Inc., Plaintiff's predecessor (“VIS”).

         However, Ronald Wang worked for RF Micro Devices, Inc. (“RFMD”) from October 2005 through September 2006, during the time the ‘747 application was filed. As a condition of his employment, Ronald Wang entered into an “Inventions Confidentiality and Non-Solicitation Agreement” with RFMD, which contained an invention assignment provision (“RFMD Agreement”).

         Plaintiff filed suit against Movants on July 5, 2018. On July 16, 2019, Vector filed the present motion to dismiss for lack of standing (Dkt. #163) and on July 25, 2019, Resideo filed its notice of joinder (Dkt. #174). Plaintiff filed its response on August 21, 2019 (Dkt. #203). On September 5, 2019, Vector and Resideo filed their reply to the motion (Dkt. #221). Finally, on September 13, 2019, Plainitff filed a sur-reply (Dkt. #239). The Court held a hearing on the motion on November 4, 2019.

         ANALYSIS

         Movants contend that Plaintiff does not have standing to bring the present suit. According to Movants, Ronald Wang's interest in the ‘983 Patent was assigned to RFMD pursuant to the RFMD Agreement; thus, his purported transfer to VIS was ineffective. Because of the ineffective assignment, Movants contend that Plaintiff is, at most, a co-owner of the ‘983 Patent. Movants argue that all co-owners must jointly consent to bring a patent infringement suit. Because Innovation Sciences, LLC is the only plaintiff in this case, Movants assert that Plainitff lacks standing and this deficiency causes the Court to lack subject matter jurisdiction over the case against Movants.

         Plaintiff counters[1] whether all co-owners are properly joined in the suit is not a jurisdictional question or even a standing question. According to Plaintiff, the standing inquiry is limited to Article III standing regarding whether there is a case and controversy. Plaintiff argues that it has properly alleged constitutional standing at the pleadings stage and that the motion should be denied on this basis.

         However, Movants maintain that regardless of whether there is case or controversy pursuant to Article III, Plaintiff still lacks standing. According to Movants, the failure to join all co-owners in a patent case is a matter of prudential standing. Movants contend that the lack of prudential standing serves as a proper basis for dismissal.

         Standing is a threshold subject matter jurisdictional requirement. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559-60 (1992).

Article III of the Constitution limits the federal juridical power to “Cases” or “Controversies, ” thereby entailing as an irreducible minimum that there be (1) an injury in fact, (2) a causal relationship between the injury and the challenged conduct, and (3) a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

Biotechnology Indus. Org. v. District of Columbia, 496 F.3d 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (quoting United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 751 v. Brown Grp., Inc., 517 U.S. 544, 550 (1996) (internal quotations omitted)). The Supreme Court of the United States has clarified that constitutional standing is limited to this analysis of “Article III's limitation of the judicial power to resolv[e] ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies.'” Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 572 U.S. 112, 125 (2014). Thus, the Court finds whether all owners are joined as plaintiffs in the present lawsuit does not affect the constitutional standing analysis.

         Here, Plaintiff argues that it has sufficiently alleged constitutional standing for purposes of defeating a motion to dismiss based on its allegation that “it owns all right, title and interest in the patent-in-suit, that Vector [and Resideo] ha[ve] infringed those rights and harmed Innovation, and that Innovation is entitled to damages that can be awarded by the Court or a jury.” (Dkt. #203 at p. 7). Movants did not respond to this argument, [2] instead focusing on prudential standing as opposed to constitutional standing. “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561 (citations omitted). “At the pleadings stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we ‘presum[e] the general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the ...


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