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Tyco Fire Products Lp v. Victaulic Company

April 12, 2011

TYCO FIRE PRODUCTS LP,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
VICTAULIC COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION...............................................1

II. BACKGROUND.................................................3

III. DISCUSSION.................................................4

A. Legal Standard........................................5

1. Historical Underpinnings and Their Demise...........................................6

2. Split in Authority on Twombly-Iqbal's Applicability to Affirmative Defenses...........10

3. Standard to be Applied by the Court.............13

B. Application..........................................17

1. Split in Authority Amongst Courts Construing Similar Pleadings...............................18

2. Defendant's Pleading............................20

a. The affirmative defense....................20

b. The counterclaim...........................22

IV. CONCLUSION................................................27

I. INTRODUCTION

The Supreme Court's decisions in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009) have caused a sea change in the pleading practices in federal court. The instant case is illustrative of this development.

Plaintiff Tyco Fire Products LP ("Plaintiff") brings this patent infringement suit against Victaulic Company ("Defendant"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has infringed two of Plaintiff's patents: (1) United States Patent Number 7,793,736 ("'736 Patent"), entitled "Ceiling-Only Dry Sprinkler Systems and Methods for Addressing a Storage Occupancy Fire"; and (2) United States Patent Number 7,819,201 ("'201 Patent"), entitled "Upright, Early Suppression Fast Response Sprinkler." (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 19.) Defendant's answer pleads five affirmative defenses and asserts two counterclaims. Amongst these affirmative defenses and counterclaims are Defendant's conclusory averments that Plaintiff's patents are "invalid and/or unenforceable." Plaintiff asks the Court to strike the affirmative defense to that effect under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), and to dismiss the corresponding counterclaim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that: (1) Twombly and Iqbal do not apply to affirmative defenses; (2) Defendant's affirmative defense satisfies the applicable standard; (3) a portion of Defendant's affirmative defense is redundant; and (4) Defendant's counterclaim fails under Twombly and Iqbal. As a corollary to these findings, the Court notes that relying on local patent rules to alter the pleading standard is not consistent with the national rules, and observes that Rule 84 and the forms to which it provides safe harbor should be modified or repealed to the extent they are incompatible with Twombly and Iqbal.

Thus, as set forth more fully below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted in part and denied in part. Defendant's counterclaim will be dismissed and the redundant portion of Defendant's affirmative defense will be stricken.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff claims that its patents are infringed by Defendant's manufacture and sale of the Model LP-46 V4603 K25 Standard Response Storage Upright Sprinklers of varying temperature ratings. (See id. ¶¶ 13, 23.) Defendant acknowledges manufacturing and marketing the products in question, (see Answer ¶¶ 12, 22), but denies Plaintiff's averments of patent infringement, (see id. ¶¶ 14-18, 24-28). Defendant further raises a series of affirmative defenses ...


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