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Pleading Merely that Defendant Had Knowledge of the Patent is Insufficient to Support a Willful Infringement Claim

On March 16, 2016, District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.) granted in part defendant Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (“Lowe’s”)’s motion to dismiss plaintiff Iron Gate Security, Inc. (“Iron Gate”)’s Complaint. Iron Gate commenced the action on November 11, 2015, alleging direct infringement, induced infringement, contributory infringement, and willful infringement, by Lowe’s, of U.S. Patent No. 6,288,641.

The court found that the factual details in Iron Gate’s Complaint provided a “plausible risk” that Lowe’s infringed the ’641 patent, and thus, its Complaint would survive the motion to dismiss with respect to the claims of direct, induced, and contributory infringement. However, the court explained that “to establish willful infringement, a patentee much [sic] show . . . that the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent.” The court concluded that the factual details in Iron Gate’s Complaint “do not rise to the much higher level of objectively reckless risk of infringement [sic].” It was insufficient for Iron Gate to simply allege that that Lowe’s was made aware of the patent and continued to market the accused products. The court noted that while Lowe’s, in proceeding forward in the face of such knowledge, could be acting with reckless disregard, it could just as easily be acting under the belief that Iron Gate’s claims are frivolous or invalid.

Case: Iron Gate Security, Inc. v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc., No. 15-cv-8814 (SAS), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34061, 2016 BL 80587 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 2016). The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 6,288,641.