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Inventorprise, Inc. v. Target Corp.

November 2, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge



Plaintiff Inventorprise, Inc. commenced this action against Target Corporation and Target Brands, Inc. (referred to collectively in the Complaint as "Target") asserting a claim of false patent marking in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 292. Target has moved to dismiss the action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(7). See Def. Mem. L. dkt. # 8. Plaintiff has opposed the motion, see Pl. Opp. Mem. L., dkt. # 11, and Defendant has filed a Reply. See Def. Reply Mem. L., dkt. # 12. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is granted and the action is dismissed.


Plaintiff commenced this action against Target invoking the Court's federal question and patent law subject matter jurisdictional grants. (Compl. ¶ 8; see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331& 1338(a)). Plaintiff alleges that Target violated 35 U.S.C. § 292(a), the false patent marking statute, because it marked the packaging of the "Closet Cedar Storage Accessories Set" ("the Product"), an un-patented item, with a U.S. patent number and then sold the Product in its retail stores. (See generally Comp.).

Target filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) contending that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the matter because there is no cognizable § 292(a) claim against Target, and pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(7) contending that Plaintiff failed to join a necessary party to the action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19.*fn1 (See dkt. # 11, Def. Mem. at 3-7). In the alternative, Target seeks to substitute Cedar Fresh Home Products, LLC ("Cedar Fresh"), the manufacturer of the Product, as the sole defendant in this action. (Def. Mem. at 6-7). In support of its motion, Defendant offers the declaration of Kimberly S. Yearick, National Sales Manager for Cedar Fresh. Ms. Yearick attests that:

(1) the Product is "made and delivered to Target by Cedar Fresh, who is a vendor to Target Corporation;" (2) the package containing the subject patent mark "is made under the direction and control of Cedar Fresh and Cedar Fresh is wholly responsible for the patent number appearing on the Product;" (3) the patent of the subject patent mark "is owned by Cedar Fresh, not Target;" and (4) "Target Corporation has had no role whatever in determining whether it is appropriate to mark the product with the patent number in question, nor has Target ever directed the patent number to be either placed on the package or not." (Yearick Decl. [dkt. # 8-2]). Plaintiff has not contested the factual allegations set forth in this declaration, and Plaintiff concedes that, based upon these allegations, "it would appear that Cedar Fresh falls within the definition of 'necessary party' pursuant to Rule 19(a)." Pl. Opp. Mem. L. pp. 4-5.


a. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)

A case is to be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to F ED. R. C IV. P. 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the matter. Makarova v. United States, 201 F. 3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). A plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists. See Luckett v. Bure, 290 F.3d 493, 497 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Malik v. Meissner, 82 F.3d 560, 562 (2d Cir. 1996).

When a defendant moves to dismiss claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), "the movant is deemed to be challenging the factual basis for the court's subject matter jurisdiction." Cedars-Sinai Medical Ctr. v. Watkins, 11 F.3d 1573, 1583 (Fed. Cir. 1993). For purposes of such a motion, "the allegations in the complaint are not controlling . . . and only uncontroverted factual allegations are accepted as true." Id. Both the movant and the pleader are permitted to use affidavits and other pleading materials to support and oppose the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113; Filetech S.A. v. France Telecom, S.A., 157 F.3d 922, 932 (2d Cir. 1998); Gunst v. Seaga, 2007 WL 1032265, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. March 30, 2007).*fn2 "Furthermore, 'jurisdiction must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party asserting it.'" Gunst, 2007 WL 1032265, at *2 (quoting Shipping Financial Services Corp. v. Drakos , 140 F.3d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 1998)). "Thus, the standard used to evaluate a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is similar to that used for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56." Lopresti v. Merson, 2001 WL 1132051, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2001).

In the final analysis, the question on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is whether the plaintiff has pleaded a "colorable claim" that invokes the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 513, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006). "Dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because of the inadequacy of the federal claim is proper only when the claim is so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 89, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998). If any of the grounds for subject matter jurisdiction are lacking, dismissal is mandatory. See United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 919 v. Centermark Props. Meriden Square, Inc. , 30 F.3d 298, 301 (2d Cir. 1994).

b. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(7) and 19

"Rule 12(b)(7) allows a party to assert by motion the defense that the opposing party failed to join a party under Rule 19." Davidson Well Drilling, Ltd. v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 2009 WL 2135396, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 16, 2009). "Like a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, a court deciding a Rule 12(b)(7) motion may consider documents either in plaintiffs' possession or of which plaintiffs had ...

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