Judge Robinson dismisses invalidity counterclaims for failing to comply with Twombly and Iqbal and inequitable counterclaims for failing to meet the Exergen standard
Judge Sue L. Robinson recently granted-in-part Senju’s motion for partial dismissal of Apotex’s counterclaims and to strike certain affirmative defenses. Senju Pharm. Co., Ltd. v. Apotex, Inc., C.A. No. 12-159-SLR (D. Del. Feb. 6, 2013). Senju moved to dismiss Apotex's invalidity counterclaims arguing that that they were deficient because they did not recite factual support and were therefore not in compliance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. Id. at 6. In response, Apotex argued that “its invalidity defense is not subject to the heightened pleading standard of Twombly and Iqbal; complies with with Fed. R. Civ. P. Form 18; is pled with same level of detail as Senju’s infringement complaint; and will become more detailed as the lawsuit progresses.” Id. at 6-7. Granting Senju’s motion, Judge Robinson noted that the courts that have declined to apply Twombly and Iqbal to invalidity counterclaims have reasoned that doing so would render those court’s local patent rules “superfluous” and would be inequitable to defendants because it would impose a higher pleading burden than Form 18 requires for plaintiffs. Id. at 7. Judge Robinson found this reasoning unpersuasive, however, because the District of Delaware has not adopted local patent rules. Id. at 8. Furthermore, “Form 18 still requires that some factual underpinning be presented, [and] the fact that Form 18 . . . remains the standard for pleading infringement claims is an insufficient justification for deviating from Twombly and Iqbal for pleading other causes of action. Id. Judge Robinson did not, however, strike Apotex’s invalidity affirmative defenses because they provided fair notice as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c). “Due to the differences between Rules 8(a) and 8(c) in text and purpose,  Twombly and Iqbal do not apply to affirmative defenses, which need not be plausible to survive.” Id. at 9-10 (citing Internet Media Corp. v. Hearst Newspapers, LLC, Civ. No. 10-690, 2012 WL 3867165, at *3 (D. Del. Sept. 6, 2012) (internal quotations omitted) (alteration in original).
Judge Robinson also dismissed Apotex’s inequitable conduct counterclaims and related affirmative defenses, with leave to amend, for failing to adequately plead those claims with the particularity required by Exergen and Therasense. Id. at 14-15. Under Exergen, Apotex was required to plead “the specific who, what when, where and how of the material misrepresentation or omission committed before the PTO.” Id. Judge Robinson found that Apotex adequately pled the “how” (“misleading the PTO regarding evidence of obviousness, secondary considerations, and the scope of the patent’s written description) and the “where” (“materials omitted in submissions to the PTO and teachings of the written description”). Id. at 15. Although Judge Robinson found that the “given the volume of materials” submitted during reexamination, the withheld documents were withheld with knowledge and intent to deceive the PTO, Apotex did not adequately plead “who” deceived the PTO. Id. at 15-16. Judge Robinson determined that Apotex’s allegations of “who” were akin to the language found to be deficient in Exergen, i.e., “Exergen, its agents and/or attorneys.” Id. at 16. Apotex’s reference to “general entities” and “the inventors” in its claims would not permit the court “to reasonably infer that any specific individual both knew of the invalidating information and had a specific intent to deceive the PTO.” Id. at 16-17. See also XpertUniverse, Inc. v. Cisco Sys., Inc., 868 F. Supp. 2d 376, 379-83 (D. Del. 2012).