Norman IP Holdings, LLC v. Lexmark Int'l, Inc., 6:12CV508

Decision Date10 August 2012
Docket Number6:12CV508,CASE NO. 6:11-CV-495
PartiesNORMAN IP HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff, v. LEXMARK INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas

SEVERED FROM AND

CONSOLIDATED INTO

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are the following thirteen motions to dismiss for improper joinder or sever:

• TomTom's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Joinder (Docket No. 39);
Garmin International, Inc.'s and Garmin USA, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, for Severance Due to Misjoinder (Docket No. 47);
Daimler North America Corporation and Mercedes-Benz USA LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Joinder, or in the Alternative, Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Docket No. 109);
General Electric Company's Motion to Dismiss for Misjoinder (Docket No. 121);
Defendant ViewSonic Corporation's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Joinder (Docket No. 132);
Motion to Sever Plaintiff's Claims Against Ford Motor Company and Memorandum in Support (Docket No. 145);
Vizio, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss for Misjoinder (Docket No. 181);• Lexmark's Motion for Severance from All Other Defendants (Docket No. 192);
Motion to Sever and Then Transfer Plaintiff's Claims Against General Motors, LLC and Brief in Support (Docket No. 195);
BMW of North America, LLC's Motion to Sever and Memorandum in Support (Docket No. 198);
Defendant Volkswagen Group of America, Inc's Motion to Sever (Docket No. 224);
Joint Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion to Sever (Docket No. 226); and
Defendant Xerox Corporation's Motion to Sever (Docket No. 239).

For the reasons stated herein, these motions are GRANTED IN PART to the extent that they request severance. Further, the severed actions are CONSOLIDATED with this action only for pretrial issues, except venue. This case shall serve as the lead case for the consolidated issues. The individual cases will remain active for venue motions and trial. All motions, other than venue motions, shall be filed in the consolidated case.

BACKGROUND

On September 15, 2011, Norman IP Holdings, LLC ("Norman") filed the instant suit against Brother International Corporation and Lexmark International Inc. See Docket No. 1. On December 9, 2011, Norman filed its first amended complaint, adding Ricoh Americas Corporation as a defendant. See Docket No. 8. Finally, on January 27, 2012, Norman filed its second amended complaint adding the following twenty-two entities: Belkin International, Inc.; BMW of North America, LLC; Daimler North America Corporation; Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC; D-Link Systems, Inc.; Dish Network Corporation; Ford Motor Company; Garmin International, Inc.; Garmin USA, Inc.; General Electric Company; General Motors Company; JVC Americas Corporation; Novatel Wireless, Inc.; Novatel Wireless Solutions, Inc.; NovatelWireless Technology, Inc.; TomTom, Inc.; ViewSonic Corporation; Vizio, Inc.; Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.; Xerox Corporation; ZTE (USA) Inc.; and ZTE Solutions Inc. See Docket No. 15. Defendants Brother International Corporation; Daimler North America Corporation; Novatel Wireless Solutions, Inc.; and Novatel Wireless Technology, Inc. have since been dismissed from the case. See Docket Nos. 11, 86, & 200. Norman alleges that each defendant infringes one or more of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,530,597; 5,502,689; 5,592,555; 5,608,873; and 5,771,394.

The original filing date is significant because it is one day before the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act ("AIA") was signed into law, which clarified the joinder requirements for cases alleging patent infringement. Before the AIA, courts in this district permitted joinder of defendants accused of infringing the same patents because there was "a nucleus of operative facts or law in the claims against all the defendants . . . ." Mymail, Ltd. v. Am. Online, Inc., 223 F.R.D. 455, 457 (E.D. Tex. 2004). However, the AIA codified a new test for joinder in patent infringement cases, clarifying that "accused infringers may not be joined in one action as defendants . . . based solely on allegations that they each have infringed the patent or patents in suit." Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, Pub. L. No. 112-29 Sec. 19(d) (to be codified as 35 U.S.C. § 299 (2012)). Section 299—a new addition to the code—applies to any action filed on or after the date the AIA was signed into law. AIA, Pub. L. No. 112-29 Sec. 19(e).

APPLICABLE LAW
Joinder

Defendants may be joined in an action if: "(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action." FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a)(2). In the patent infringementcontext, claims against independent defendants may not be joined under Rule 20 "unless the facts underlying the claim of infringement asserted against each defendant share an aggregate of operative facts." In re EMC Corporation, 677 F.3d 1351, 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2012).1 That the accused products or processes of the defendants are similar is not enough. Id. Other relevant factors in considering whether joinder is proper include: (1) the temporal proximity of alleged infringement; (2) the relationship among defendants; (3) the use of common components in the accused products; (4) licensing or technology agreements between defendants; (5) shared development and manufacturing; and (6) whether the damages sought are based on lost profits. Id. at 1359-60. An improperly joined party may be dropped from the action or have the claims against them severed. FED. R. CIV. P. 21.

Consolidation

"If actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may: (1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in the actions; (2) consolidate the actions; or (3) issue any other orders to avoid unnecessary cost or delay." FED. R. CIV. P. 42(a). In applying Rule 42, a court has considerable discretion. In re EMC, 677 F.3d at 1360; see also Luera v. M/V Albeta, 635 F.3d 181, 194 (5th Cir. 2011) ("Rule 42(a) provides district courts with broad authority to consolidate actions that 'involve a common question of law or fact.'").

ANALYSIS

Norman argues the AIA does not apply to the defendants joined after September 15, 2011, because the original complaint instituted the civil action before the AIA was signed into law. Norman further contends that, even if the AIA provisions are applicable, the defendantswere properly joined because use of the ARM architecture underlies each defendant's alleged infringement. Norman alternatively requests that any severed causes of action be consolidated under Rule 42.

Joinder

Whether the AIA joinder provision applies to the defendants joined via amended complaint is of no moment in the instant case. Under both Rule 20 and the AIA, the added defendants were not properly joined because the claims against each defendant do not relate to "the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences." FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a)(2)(A); 35 U.S.C. § 299(a)(1). Norman's second amended complaint generally alleged infringement of the patents-in-suit against each of the defendants, mentioning ARM processors with respect to only three defendants—Daimler, GM, and ViewSonic—and there only by way of example. See Docket No. 15, at 14 ("The infringing Daimler systems include, for example, Daimler's infotainment and navigation systems (including but not limited to multimedia chipsets for infotainment systems such as ARM11 processors related to mbrace2) . . . ."); id. at 18 ("The infringing GM systems include, for example, GM infotainment and navigation systems (for example, GM infotainment systems containing multimedia chipsets such as ARM11 processors (e.g., CUE)) . . . ."); id. at 20 ("The infringing ViewSonic systems include, for example, the multimedia chipsets embedded within tablets and televisions (including, but not limited to, ARM Cortex A8 in the ViewPad 10e and Mstar chipset within the VT2730 LCDTV) . . . ."). Norman has more recently supplied "a non-exhaustive account of the overlap of highly similar processors cores, including ARM," in its response to BMW's motion to sever and transfer. See Docket No. 234, at 10.

Norman's allegations regarding the common use of ARM processor designs are not sufficient to show that there is a common transaction or occurrence among the defendantswarranting joinder. The complaint did not mention ARM processors as a defining characteristic regarding each defendant's alleged infringement, and the three instances where ARM cores were identified, they were listed merely as non-limiting examples of infringing system components. Accordingly, Norman's broad allegations regarding common processor or processor family designs are insufficient to establish that the allegations of infringement against each defendant relate to a common transaction or occurrence for joinder purposes.2 Under both Rule 20 and the AIA joinder provision, the unrelated defendants in this case were improperly joined and should either be dismissed from the case or severed into their own cases. Accordingly, the Court ORDERS that claims against the newly added defendants be severed into separate causes of action as detailed below.

Consolidation

This Court has limited resources and constantly strives to employ efficient and cost-saving case-management procedures for the benefit of the parties, counsel, and the Court. See WordCheck Tech, LLC v. Alt-N Techs, Ltd., No. 6:10-cv-457 (E.D. Tex. July 20, 2011) (permitting limited early discovery to facilitate early mediation discussion); Parallel Networks, LLC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, No. 6:10-cv-111 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 15, 2011) (employing an early Markman proceeding to efficiently resolve a multi-defendant case). In response to the AIA's joinder provision, plaintiffs now serially file multiple single-defenda...

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