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Hand Held Products, Inc. v. The Code Corporation

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

June 9, 2017

Hand Held Products, Inc., d/b/a Honeywell Scanning & Mobility; Intermec Technologies Corporation; and Intermec IP Corporation, Plaintiffs,
The Code Corporation, Defendant.


          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion to dismiss Defendant's counterclaims and to strike in part Defendant's affirmative defenses (Dkt No. 51). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Hand Held Products, Intermec Technologies, and Intermec IP (collectively "Honeywell") and Defendant The Code Corporation ("Code") compete in the 2D healthcare barcode reader market. In the present action, Honeywell asserts Code's CR2600 barcode reader infringes six patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 6, 607, 128, 8.096, 472, 6, 249, 008, 6, 538, 413, 6, 039, 258, 6, 491, 223) held by Honeywell. Code asserts that Honeywell's potential recovery from this action is small because two of the asserted patents expired before the filing of the complaint (the '413 Patent and the '223 Patent), because a third expired before Code's answer to the complaint (the "008 Patent), because a fourth expires on July 17, 2017 (the '258 Patent), and because Code redesigned the CR2600 to distinguish it from Honeywell's '128 Patent and '472 Patent promptly upon service of the complaint. (Dkt. Nos. 38 ¶¶ 208-13, 52 at 4.) Honeywell's true purpose in bringing this action, according to Code, is as a pretense to disparage Code with false statements and to interfere with Code's contractual relationships with its customers, thereby driving Code from the market, (Dkt, Nos. 38 ¶¶ 214-36, 52 at 4.)

         Honeywell filed an amended complaint on April 14, 2017 and Code filed an amended answer on April 27, 2017. On May 11, 2017, Honeywell moved to dismiss Code's counterclaims and to strike certain of Code's affirmative defenses. Honeywell argues the amended answer fails to provide a sufficient factual basis for those counterclaims and affirmative defenses.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the claim, or the applicability of defenses. . . . Our inquiry then is limited to whether the allegations constitute 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" Republican Party of N. C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id.

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility" where the pleading "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

         The standard for ruling on a motion to dismiss a counterclaim is the same as the standard for ruling on a motion to dismiss a claim. See E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011).

         B. Motion to Strike

         Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits striking an "insufficient defense" from a pleading. To grant a Rule 12(f) motion, the court must determine that the challenged allegations are "so unrelated to the plaintiffs claims as to be unworthy of any consideration as a defense and that their presence in the pleading throughout the proceeding will be prejudicial to the moving party." 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1380 (2d ed. 1990)). "Rule 12(f) motions are generally viewed with disfavor 'because striking a portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy and because it is often sought by the movant simply as a dilatory tactic.'" Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore, 252 F.3d 316, 347 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting id.). "Traditionally, it imposes a sizable burden on the movant, and courts typically strike defenses only when they have no possible relation to the controversy." Lopez v. Asmar's Mediterranean Food, Inc., Civ. No. 1:10-1218, 2011 WL 98573, at *1 (E.D. Va. Jan. 10, 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Nevertheless, a defense that might confuse the issues in the case and would not, under the facts alleged, constitute a valid defense to the action can and should be deleted." Waste Mgmt. Holdings, 252 F.3d at 347 (internal quotation marks omitted). "[W]henever granted, the defendant should generally be given leave to amend." Palmer v. Oakland Farms, Inc., Civ. No. 5:10-29, 2010 WL 2605179, at *2 (W.D. Va. June 24, 2010).

         III. Discussion

         A. Invalidity and ...

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