Judge Robinson dismisses declaratory judgment complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction

In Cisco Systems, Inc. v. Sprint Communications Co., L.P., C.A. Nos. 15-431-SLR & 15-432-SLR (D. Del. Feb. 19, 2016), Judge Sue L. Robinson granted Defendant Sprint’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  Plaintiff Cisco had filed invalidity and non-infringement declaratory judgment clams against Defendant.  Defendant had asserted infringement against Plaintiff’s customers based on the use of Cisco products, and some customers had also made demands on Cisco for indemnification.  Id. at 4-5.  The Court held that these facts were insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction.  Plaintiff had not established “a reasonable potential that” suit would be brought against it beyond Defendant’s suits against Cisco customers, as required by the Federal Circuit, and while Plaintiff would have standing to bring suit if it had “an obligation to indemnify their customers,” no standing existed based solely on “customer requests without regard to the merits of such requests” based on Federal Circuit precedent.  Id. at 4-5 (emphasis in original).

Plaintiff also argued that Defendant’s “aggressive litigation strategies and [its] refusal to give assurances that it will not enforce its patents against [Plaintiff]” supported jurisdiction.  Id. at 5.  The Court also rejected this argument; while “the Federal Circuit has recognized that a patentee’s refusal to give assurances that it will not enforce its patent is relevant to the determination [of declaratory judgment standing], the Court . . . subsequently explained that such post-complaint facts cannot create jurisdiction where none existed at the time of filing.  With respect to [Plaintiff’s] aggressive licensing and litigation strategies – even in the face of this court’s invalidating various of Sprint’s patents – the prospect of continued litigation against Cisco customers, without more, is insufficient to pass muster under the current legal regime.”  Id. at 5-6 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

In a footnote, the Court also clarified that Federal Circuit law did not require Plaintiff’s complaint to “establish its products meet each element of Sprint’s infringement allegations,” as Sprint had argued.  Id. at 6 n.3.


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