A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Finds Unjust Enrichment Claim Raises Federal Question Under Patent Act

In an October 29, 2015 ruling,Judge Jesse M. Furman found federal question jurisdiction over the plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim which depended on the defendant's infringement of the plaintiff's patent.  The plaintiff administers a number of patent license pools, and the defendant took a license under one of the pools.  After the defendant stopped paying royalties, the plaintiff sued in state court for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.  The defendant removed to this Court, and the plaintiff moved to remand.  Plaintiff's unjust enrichment theory was that the defendant "'benefited by acting as if it had a patent pool license . . ., i.e., that it was "under the umbrella of the protection of the [relevant] Contract"'" and 'it [did] so at the expense of [the plaintiff] which had nonetheless provided this umbrella of protection but was not adequately compensated for doing so.'"  Judge Furman found that "to prevail on that claim, [the plaintiff] must necessarily prove infringement of one or more of the patent in the patent pool," "[t]hat is, the only way [the plaintiff] can prove that [the defendant] benefited at its expense is by showing that it used (and therefore infringed) a patent in the pool."  The Court noted that that "fact distinguishes [the plaintiff's] claim from breach of contract cases found not to raise federal patent questions because the claims turned on interpretation or application of a term in the contract, and infringement or non-infringement was not the determining factor," and denied the plaintiff's motion to remand.

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