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Frederick Foster v. Pitney Bowes Inc

July 23, 2012

FREDERICK FOSTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PITNEY BOWES INC, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, AND JOHN DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This case involves a dispute over intellectual property. On November 23, 2011,Plaintiff Frederick D. Foster, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint against Defendants Pitney Bowes Corporation ("Pitney Bowes"), United States Postal Service ("USPS") and John Does 1-10 ("John Does"). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff asserts five claims: (1) a violation of 39 U.S.C. § 404a of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act ("PAEA");*fn1 (2) misrepresentation and fraud; (3) conversion; (4) unjust enrichment; and (5) misappropriation of trade secrets. (Doc. No. 1-1 ¶¶ 44-66.) The Complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $150,000. (Id. ¶ 66.)

On March 9, 2012, Defendant USPS filed a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 14.) On April 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 20.)*fn2 On July 2, 2012, the Court held a hearing on Defendant USPS's Motion.

For reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant USPS's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).*fn3

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

The Court recites the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. On or about May 7, 2007, Plaintiff submitted a patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 23.) He described his concept as the "Virtual Post Office Box/Internet Passport powered by Global Registration and Verification" ("VPOBIP"). (Id. ¶ 21.) VPOBIP was designed to verify identity on the Internet. (Id.) VPOBIP is a system where, for a fee, individuals and businesses would present identification documents to their local post office. (Id.) Once their identity was verified by USPS, they would receive a virtual Post Office Box and their email messages would contain a VPOBIP badge. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. B at 2.) The VPOBIP badge apparently would make the user seem more trustworthy to other members of the online community. (Id.) The aim of the VPOBIP system was to diminish the amount of Internet fraud as more people used the software. (Id.)

On or about May 25, 2007, Plaintiff mailed a description of VPOBIP to USPS's Senior Vice President of Strategy and Transition, Linda Kingsley ("Kingsley"). (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 23.) Kingsley assigned the proposal for review to Linda Stewart ("Stewart"), Vice President of Strategic Planning. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Kingsley also instructed Plaintiff to submit his concept through the USPS Innovations Initiative Database, which he did on or about June 11, 2007. (Id. ¶ 23.)

Plaintiff had several conversations with representatives from USPS, including Stewart and the Manager of Strategic Business Initiatives, Thomas Cinelli ("Cinelli"). (Id. ¶ 24.) Cinelli told Plaintiff that his proposal would be presented to USPS's stakeholders,*fn4 including Defendant Pitney Bowes. (Id.) The stakeholders approved a VPOBIP pilot program. (Id. ¶ 25.)

Cinelli forecasted that the profit from the VPOBIP program would exceed $10 million. (Id.) Cinelli therefore informed Plaintiff that the Postal Regulatory Commission ("PRC") would also need to give its approval. (Id.) Plaintiff then began to communicate with the PRC and other government agencies. (Id. ¶ 26.)

In September 2009, the PRC suggested that Plaintiff contact John Campo ("Campo"), President of Postal Relations at Pitney Bowes. (Id. ¶ 28.) On October 1, 2009, Plaintiff contacted Campo by phone and email. In his email, Plaintiff described the VPOBIP system, including his notice of patent rights, and explained his intent to partner with USPS. (Id. ¶ 29.) The Complaint does not allege any further conversations between Plaintiff and Pitney Bowes or USPS.

In March or April 2011, Pitney Bowes launched "Volly.com," an online verification system that contains features which Plaintiff argues are a direct copy of VPOBIP. (Id. ¶ 30.) Thereafter, Plaintiff commenced the instant litigation against Defendants USPS, Pitney Bowes and John Does.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must determine whether the motion is a facial or factual challenge. See In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)). "A facial attack challenges only the court's subject matter jurisdiction. A factual attack allows the court to question the plaintiff's facts after the defendant files an answer." Machon v. Pa. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, No. 11-4151, 2012 WL 592323, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 23, 2012) (citing Mortensen, 549 F.2d ...


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