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Judge Sue L. Robinson: Pleading State-Law Business Torts in D. Del.

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On Wednesday, District Judge Sue L. Robinson emphasized, as earlier D. Del. cases have, that inadequately pleaded state-law claims in patent cases will not be tolerated. In the underlying infringement litigation, plaintiff sought redress for trade-secret misappropriation and a variety of other state-law business torts. On a motion to dismiss, the Court explained that plaintiff’s general allegations of theft and interference could not survive the Supreme Court’s Twombly pleading standard.

On the trade secret count, the Court rejected as insufficient the assertion that defendant, after exposure to plaintiff’s product via a customer, “seemed to develop the [new] product surprisingly quick[ly].” Similarly, the intentional interference count – and, by extension, the unfair competition claims – could not survive: “Accenture was not required to plead the precise nature of Guidewire’s interference with its business opportunity, but it was required to allege some wrongful or improper conduct vis-a-vis . . . the only customer mentioned in Accenture’s complaint.”

The lesson? When considering whether to add state-law claims to an infringement complaint, make sure the details, independent of the infringement, are there.

Accenture Global Services GMBH v. Guidewire Software Inc., C.A. No. 07-826-SLR (D. Del. Oct. 8, 2008).

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