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Ottah v. BMW

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 1, 2017

BMW et al., Defendants.


          LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Chikezie Ottah (“Plaintiff”) brings this patent infringement action pro se against fifteen automobile companies (collectively, “Defendants”). This action concerns U.S. Patent no. 7, 152, 840 (the “‘840 patent”), which is co-owned by Plaintiff.[1] Five of the defendants-General Motors LLC; Mazda Motor Corporation; Nissan Motors Company Limited; Fuji Heavy Industries; and Toyota Motor Corporation (collectively, “MTD Defendants”)-have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and for misjoinder. Additionally, five other defendants-FCA U.S. LLC; Ford Motor Company; Hyundai Motor America; Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC; and Kia Motor America, Inc. (collectively, “MSJ Defendants”)-have moved for summary judgment of non-infringement.[2] The remaining five defendants-BMW, Rolls Royce, Damier AG [sic], Citron/Peoget [sic], and Mitsubishi (collectively, “Nonmoving Defendants”)-have not appeared in this action. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction of this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1338. For the reasons set forth below, MTD Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is granted, MSJ Defendants' motion for summary judgment is also granted, and the action is dismissed as against the remaining defendants. The Court does not reach the issue of misjoinder.


         Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) alleges generally that he “invented a mobile camera” and that Defendants “are manufacturing/making the product, using and selling it [sic], ” thereby infringing on the ‘840 patent. (Docket entry no. 89 at ECF p. 7.) The ‘840 patent, entitled “Book Holder, ” was issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on December 26, 2006. (Supko Decl. Ex. A, docket entry no. 146-1.)[3] The ‘840 patent was issued with a single claim directed to “[a] book holder for removable attachment, ” comprising an adjustable clasp for attachment of the device, an arm extending from the clasp to a book platform, and several clamps to attach a book to the platform holder. (See id.)

         The ‘840 patent's single claim reads in its entirety as follows:

1. A book holder for removable attachment, the book holder comprising: a book support platform, the book support platform comprising a front surface, a rear surface and a plurality of clamps, the front surface adapted for supporting a book, the plurality of clamps disposed on the front surface to engage and retain the book to the book support platform, the rear surface separated from the front surface;
a clasp comprising a clip head, a clip body and a pair of resilient clip arms, the clip arms adjustably mounted on the clip head, the clip head attached to the clip body; and
an arm comprising a first end and a second end and a telescoping arrangement, the clasp on the first end, the second end pivotally attached to the book support platform, the telescoping arrangement interconnecting the first end to [ ] the second end, the clasp spaced from the book support platform wherein the book holder is removably attached and adjusted to a reading position by the telescoping arrangement axially adjusting the spaced relation between the book support platform and the clasp and the pivotal connection on the book support platform pivotally adjusting the front surface with respect to the arm.

(Supko Decl. Ex. A at 6.)

         Plaintiff has attached to the SAC an image of a camera mounted on a vehicle. (Docket entry no. 89 at ECF p. 34.)[4] The SAC, however, does not proffer details as to how the such apparently accused vehicle-mounted cameras infringe the ‘840 patent nor identify any particular vehicle or camera model as infringing. He merely refers to cameras as items that could be supported by the platform component of a book holder, and to the general availability of light and affordable cameras. (See, e.g., SAC at ECF p. 10 (“the book platform [] may be used to support such devices as audio/video equipment, mobile phones, CAMERA, computers, DPA [sic], musical instruments, toys, puzzles, board games, and their elements.”); id. at ECF p. 11 (“Today innovated cameras are small, light, and affordable, everybody in the family have camera for out door activities, this is truly stated by the book holder [sic] . . .”).

         On March 2, 2016, MTD Defendants moved to dismiss the SAC, arguing principally that, contrary to Plaintiff's claim that he invented a mobile camera, the ‘840 patent does not claim a camera of any sort and thus Plaintiff cannot plead plausibly his claim of infringement. MSJ Defendants similarly contend that the claim of ‘840 patent does not read on their vehicle-mounted camera devices. MSJ Defendants further contend, on the basis of evidentiary submissions, that because the cameras on their vehicles cannot be removed without tools, the cameras fail the “removable attachment” limitation of the patent's claim and there is no genuine dispute as to non-infringement. (See docket entry nos. 109, 110, 111, 113 & 114.) MSJ Defendants specifically request that their motion be treated as one for summary judgment.[5](Docket entry no. 151 at 12.)

         Plaintiff has made several submissions in opposition to the motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment, including an April 1, 2016, letter in opposition to both motions (docket entry no. 159), a supplemental exhibit on April 6, 2016 (docket entry no. 160), and another letter filed April 21, 2016, in response to Defendants' replies (docket entry no. 167). Plaintiff, inter alia, invokes the doctrine of equivalents and argues that the ‘840 patent reads on certain aspects of Defendants' cameras; for instance, Plaintiff asserts that a “book” can refer to a “camera” and that the screws and bolts holding Defendants' mounted cameras in place should be considered the equivalent of the removable clasps specified in the patent. (See docket entry no. 159 at ECF pp. 6, 8.)


         Motion ...

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