Two Claims Dismissed But District Court Denies Rule 11 Sanctions Motion

The case is a patent case. The defendant successfully moved to dismiss two of the counts of the complaint and then sought sanctions on those two counts on the ground that the allegations were frivolous. The district court was unimpressed with the sanctions motion and denied it.

Aardvark also contends that the ‘823 and ‘675 patents are invalid, and that Bobcar’s assertion of infringement claims as to these patents was frivolous. (Dkt. No. 67 at 12-16; Dkt. No. 80 at 2-6.) As to these two patents, there is a stronger case that there is no reasonable basis for Bobcar’s assertion of validity. However, the Court need not ultimately decide whether these patents are invalid for anticipation, or whether Bobcar’s claims for their infringement violated Rule 11, because in any event, the Court would deny sanctions. See Perez, 373 F.3d at 326(affirming district court that had declined “to decide definitively whether there had been a [Rule 11] violation because even if there had been, the court would exercise its discretion to deny sanctions”).

Looking to the relevant factors, the Court determines that the “extreme measure” of Rule 11 sanctions is not warranted here. Fleming v. Hymes-Esposito, No. 12 Civ. 1154, 2013 WL 1285431, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2013).[4] Bobcar’s claims of infringement as to the two design patents at issue—’823 and ‘675—constituted only one third of its patent infringement claims, and did not implicate the Second Amended Complaint’s Lanham Act and unfair competition counts. (See SAC ¶¶ 96-97, 106-131.) Any impropriety in the assertion of the challenged claims thus did not “infect[] the entire pleading.” Cont’l Cas. Co., 2017 WL 1901969, at *7 (quoting Ho Myung Moolsan Co., 665 F. Supp. 2d at 265).

Furthermore, the assertion of infringement as to two relatively simple design patents could not have independently added great time and expense to a litigation involving a third, more involved design patent (‘353), three utility patents, and trade dress and unfair competition claims. See id. (listing the “effect [a Rule 11(b) violation] had on the litigation process in time or expense” as a relevant factor (quoting Ho Myung Moolsan Co., 665 F. Supp. 2d at 265)). And indeed, the fact that Bobcar’s arguments in favor of the validity of one of the three challenged design patents were not frivolous “militates strongly against imposing sanctions” here. Fleming, 2013 WL 1285431, at *11.

“[I]t is well settled that the imposition of sanctions is reserved for `extreme cases.'” Tantaros, 2018 WL 1662779, at *3 (quoting Sorenson v. Wolfson, 170 F. Supp. 3d 622, 626 (S.D.N.Y. 2016)). The Court concludes that this action is not such an “extreme case.”

Comment: the case stands for the proposition that to obtain sanctions you have to show some rather serious conduct. The fact that one count in a complaint was weak is not enough for a sanctions motion.

Bobcar Media, LLC. v. Aardvark Event Logistics, Inc., 16-cv-885 (S.D.N.Y.) February 4, 2019.

Bobcar Media v. Aardvark

Ed Clinton, Jr.

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