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Orbcomm Inc. v. Calamp Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

July 22, 2016

ORBCOMM INC., Plaintiff,
CALAMP CORP., Defendant.


          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge.

         This is a patent infringement action involving what appears from the face of the Complaint, and attached exhibits, [1] to be a series of machine-to-machine communication platforms designed for tracking and monitoring the location and status of widely dispersed fleet vehicles and related mobile assets. The lawsuit consists of five separate but interrelated patents. These specific patents-in-suit include the following:

1. U.S. Patent No. 6, 292, 724 ("the '724 patent") (entitled "Method Of And System And Apparatus For Remotely Monitoring The Location, Status, Utilization And Condition Of Widely Geographically [Dispersed] Fleets of Vehicular Construction Equipment And The Like And Providing And Displaying Such Information") (Compl. ¶ 21, ECFNo. 1);
2. U.S. Patent No. 6, 611, 686 ("the '686 Patent") (entitled "Tracking Control And Logistics System And Method") (Compl. ¶ 27);
3. U.S. Patent No. 6, 651, 001 ("the '001 Patent") (entitled "Method Of And System And Apparatus For Integrating Maintenance Vehicle And Service Personnel Tracking Information With The Remote Monitoring Of The Location, Status, Utilization And Condition Of Widely Geographically Dispersed Fleets Of Vehicular Construction Equipment And The Like To Be Maintained, And Providing And Displaying Together Both Construction And Maintenance Vehicle Information") (Compl. ¶ 38);
4. U.S. Patent No. 6, 735, 150 ("the '150 Patent") (entitled "Method Of And Apparatus For Distinguishing Engine Idling And Working Hours") (Compl. ¶ 43);
5. U.S. Patent No. 8, 855, 626 ("the '626 Patent") (entitled "Wireless Control For Creation Of, And Command Response To, Standard Freight Shipment Messages") (Compl. ¶ 51).

         The matter is presently before the Court on Defendant CalAmp Corp.'s Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 16). Defendant CalAmp Corp. ("CalAmp") challenges the sufficiency of the Complaint on two fronts. First, CalAmp alleges that the patents-in-suit are abstract ideas ineligible as a matter of law to be patented. Secondly, CalAmp maintains that the Complaint fails to state a plausible claim of patent infringement. Both parties have filed memoranda of law and supplemental authorities outlining their respective positions.

         At this stage of the proceedings, the Court's analysis is informed and constrained by the four corners of the Complaint and attached exhibits. As required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court assumes that Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are true and is required to review all facts in the light most favorable to Orbcomm, Inc. ("Orbcomm"). T.G. Slater & Son, Inc. v. Donald P. and Patricia A. Brennan LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs. Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). Because the task at hand involves a pre-claim construction black letter review of the Complaint and patents-in-suit, oral argument would not aid in the decisional process at this stage.

         Despite their atypical complexity, motions to dismiss patent infringement complaints are governed by the same well-recognized standards employed in any other civil case. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit explained in Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, "[a] motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not assert "detailed factual allegations, " but must contain "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). Thus, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" id. (citation omitted), to one that is "plausible on its face, " id. at 570, rather than merely conceivable. Id.

         While a reviewing court must consider the well-pleaded allegations as true and view the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, legal conclusions enjoy no such deference. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         However, before turning to the sufficiency of the Complaint, CalAmp urges the Court to find the patents-in-suit to be conceptually ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Such motions are appropriate at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. Content Extraction & Transmission LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 776 F.3d 1343, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2014). Challenges to the validity of a patent face a high hurdle. Noting nearly a century of seamless jurisprudence, the United States Supreme Court in Microsoft v. i4i Limited Partnership stated that "there is a presumption of [patent] validity [that is] not to be overthrown except by clear and cogent evidence." 564 U.S. 91, 101 (2011) (citations omitted).

         CalAmp maintains that the patents at issue involve abstract ideas such as gathering, storing, processing, formatting, and transmitting data. According to CalAmp, Orbcomm attempts to patent this ineligible subject matter by merely adding conventional sensors, computers, and network equipment. Succinctly, CalAmp contends that the patents involved in this litigation are merely attempts to patent ineligible subject matter, namely abstract ideas, through ineligible means, namely adding a generic computer.

         According to CalAmp, "[n]one of Orbcomm's claims focuses on improving GPS technology or on the chips inside the GPS receivers; they merely use the GPS receiver as a black-box generic device to implement the claimed abstract ideas." (Def.'s Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 7, ECF No. 22.) Therefore, CalAmp seeks invalidation of all five patents based on a facial challenge to the patents and accompanying Complaint.

         To support their claim that the patents-in-suit are simply abstract ideas built on conventional technology, CalAmp relies on Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Banklnt'l, 134 S.Ct. 2347 (2014). Section 101 of the Patent Act describes the subject matter eligible for patent protection. It provides: "[w]hoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new or useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title." Id. at 2354 (citing 35 U.S.C. § 101).

         The Supreme Court in Alice explained that Section 101 had "an important implicit exception: Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable." Id. (citing Ass 'n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2107, 2116 (2013)). It noted that "[l]aws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are 'the basic tools of scientific and technological work.'" Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2354 (citing Myriad, 133 S.Ct. at 2116).

         The Court further counseled in Alice that "[monopolization of those tools through the grant of a patent might tend to impede innovation more than it would tend to promote it." Alice, 134 S.Ct. at 2354 (citing Mayo Collaborative Servs. v.Prometheus Labs., Inc.,132 S.Ct. 1289, 1293 (2012)). The Court in Alice, however, dispensed with the notion that a patent is rendered ineligible "simply because it involves an abstract concept." Id. (citing Diamond v.Diehr,450 U.S. 175, 187 (1981)). "[Amplication[s] of such concepts 'to a new and useful end, ' we have said, ...

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