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February 17, 2004.

WILLIAM F. ASIP and MIKLOS L. BARTHA, Plaintiffs, -against- NIELSEN MEDIA RESEARCH, INC. and VNU, INC., Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge


William Asip and Miklos Bartha bring this action against VNU, Inc. ("VNU") and Nielsen Media Research ("Nielsen") (collectively "defendants") alleging patent infringement. VNU now moves to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim, and Nielsen moves for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e). For the reasons that follow, both motions are denied.


  Plaintiffs are New York residents and holders of Patent No. 4,361,851 ("`851 Patent").*fn1 Defendants are owners and operators of television audience measurement estimating systems and devices.*fn2 Both defendants conduct business in New York*fn3 and Page 2 Nielsen is a "division" of VNU.*fn4

  The `851 patent was issued to plaintiffs on November 30, 1982 for their invention of a system that "automatically monitor[s] the selection of a Program Source made by a Subscriber."*fn5 Specifically, this system enables the transmission (over non-dedicated telephone lines) of channel logs chronicling those channels a subscriber has viewed.*fn6 Plaintiffs envisioned use of this invention with "cable television systems or over-the-air pay television scrambled systems."*fn7 But they also noted that the possible applications of this invention "are not restricted to [those relating to] Pay-TV" and could include deployment in activities such as "[o]pinion polling and preference sampling."*fn8

  Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Nielsen's Rule 12(e) Motion ("Pl. 12(e) Mem.") at 1. Page 3

  Plaintiffs allege that defendants have infringed, induced, and/or contributed to the infringement of "at least" Claim One of the `851 Patent.*fn9 Claim One covers:
A television-use monitoring device for direct electrical connection to a telephone line, comprising:
(a) coupling means coupled to said television for detecting when said television is actively receiving a predetermined channel and producing, in response thereto a program selection signal indicating the active reception of a particular program selection;
(b) timer means for providing timing information;
(c) transient memory means responsive to said coupling means to store, in response to a first control signal, said program selection signal associated with a particular program whose active reception has been detected;
(d) second memory means responsive to said transient memory means to receive the output of said transient memory means in response to a second control signal and produce the same at its output in response to a third control signal;
(e) control means responsive to said timer for periodically causing said transient memory means to store any program selection signal present in the system, and reading the contents of said transient memory means, and responsive to said transient memory means to cause said transient memory means to transfer its contents to said second memory means in response to the detection of said program selection at one point in time and a second detection of the same program selection a predetermined period of time thereafter;
  (f) interface means, responsive to said control Page 4 means and said second memory means to encode said program selection signal for transmission; and
(g) transmission coupling means, responsive to said interface means, to couple the output of said interface means to conventional telephone lines and transmit said program selection to a central billing facility.*fn10
Defendants allegedly knew of and intentionally infringed the `851 Patent by "importing, making, using and/or selling products which use and/or encompass[,] store [,] and forward technology with the use of a telephone line for data transmission in the television industries."*fn11 Plaintiffs contend that defendants' unlawful conduct began prior to and continued through the `851 Patent's expiration date in January 2000.*fn12


  A. Legal Standard

  1. Rule 12(b)(6)

  A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'"*fn13 "A court's task `in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) Page 5 motion is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof.'"*fn14 Accordingly, courts must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.*fn15

  2. Rule 12(e)

  Under Rule 12(e), if a complaint is "so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading."*fn16 Rule 8(a) provides that a plaintiff need only plead "a short and plain statement of the claim" that will provide the defendant with fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.*fn17 "`[I]f [a] complaint complies with the liberal pleading requirements of [Rule 8(a)], then the Rule 12(e) motion should be denied.'"*fn18 Notably, because the purpose of the Rule Page 6 is to "strike at unintelligibility rather than want of detail and . . . allegations that are unclear due to a lack of specificity are more appropriately clarified by discovery rather than by an order for a more definite statement."*fn19 Therefore, ...

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