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84 LUMBER COMPANY v. MRK TECHNOLOGIES

May 30, 2001

84 LUMBER COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MRK TECHNOLOGIES, LTD., PSC SCANNING,INC. AND TELXON CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maurice B. Cohill, Jr., Senior United States District Judge.

Memorandum Opinion and Order

For the reasons set forth below, we are satisfied that we have subject matter jurisdiction over this matter and that it has been properly removed to this court.

Background

Defendants PSC Scanning, Inc. ("PSC"), and Telxon Corporation ("Telxon") manufacture hand-held laser devices which are used to scan bar codes on merchandise. MRK Technologies, Ltd. ("MRK"), distributes Telxon equipment. Plaintiff 84 Lumber Company ("84 Lumber") purchased equipment from these companies (collectively "the defendants"), to use in its bar code scanning system. Subsequently, 84 Lumber was one of a number of defendants sued for patent infringement by the Lemelson Medical, Education & Research Foundation, LP ("Lemelson"), in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona (the "Lemelson Suit").

84 Lumber settled the Lemelson Suit for forty thousand dollars. It then filed a one count complaint against the defendants in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Pennsylvania, alleging breach of the implied warranty against infringement, 13 Pa.C.S.A. § 2312(c), and seeking monetary damages in the amount of the settlement.

Defendants timely filed a notice of removal in this Court, asserting federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1338, and 1441. Mindful of our responsibility to ascertain our own jurisdiction, we ordered briefs and heard argument on whether or not we have jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiff contends that we are without subject matter jurisdiction, and that the action must be remanded to state court.

Discussion

(i)

Since jurisdiction is asserted based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1338, the law of the Federal Circuit controls this case. Panduit Corp. v. All States Plastic Manufacturing Co., 744 F.2d 1564, 1573 (Fed. Cir. 1984). The statute provides, in pertinent part, that "[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action arising under any Act of Congress relating to patents .Such jurisdiction shall be exclusive of the courts of the states in patent cases." 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a).*fn1

In Christianson v. Colt Industries Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800 (1988), the United States Supreme Court addressed the question of when a case arises under federal patent law:

[I]n order to demonstrate that a case is one "arising under" federal patent law "the plaintiff must set up some right, title or interest under the patent laws, or at least make it appear that some right or privilege will be defeated by one construction, or sustained by the opposite construction of these laws."

Christianson, 486 U.S. at 807 (citations omitted).

In any civil action, a district court's federal-question jurisdiction extends over "only those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law," in that "federal law is a necessary element of one of the well-pleaded . . . claims." Franchise Tax Board of California v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983). Under the well-pleaded complaint rule, as adapted to § 1338(a), "jurisdiction likewise extend[s] only to those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal patent law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law, in that patent law is a necessary element of one of the well-pleaded claims." Christianson, 486 U.S. at 809 (citations omitted).

Whether a claim "arises under" patent law "must be determined from what necessarily appears in the plaintiff's statement of his own claim in the bill or declaration, unaided by anything alleged in anticipation or avoidance of defenses which it is thought the defendant may interpose." Christianson, 486 U.S. at 809 (citations omitted). For that reason, a case raising a federal patent law defense does not arise under patent law, "even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if both ...


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