St. Louis Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Judge grants motion to dismiss patent infringement suit over 'Illuminated Address Sign'


By Sam Knef | Jun 18, 2018

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ST. LOUIS – A federal judge in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently granted defendants relief from a patent infringement case brought by a pro se plaintiff seeking $55 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Plaintiff Kerry S. Wells had brought suit last year against Lincoln Industrial Corp., Paul G. Conley, David Mark Allen, Scott Allen Sanders, Ayzik Grach, Thomas S. Scott and patent attorney Charles C. McCloskey over alleged infringement of his invention, an "Illuminated Address Sign." He claimed that McCloskey used his power of attorney in representing Wells to assign his design patent to the other named defendants without his knowledge and consent.

He further claimed that the defendants, described as the Lincoln Defendants in U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig's June 4 ruling, then sold his patented invention. In supporting his claims, he alleged that when he called the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to discuss his patent, an employee there said she couldn't speak to Wells because he was not one of the assignees to the patent.

The defendants argued, among other things, that Wells' entire cause of the "frivolous" action was based on his "misinterpretation" of a Google search result which Wells interpreted to establish that his patent was assigned to the Lincoln Defendants. They claim that had he kept on clicking on links produced by a search, articles would have shown that the Lincoln Defendants were issued "an entirely different design patent" for a hand pump on the same day Wells' design patent was issued.

Fleissig found that defendants exhibits were persuasive, making clear that aside from being issued the same day, the Lincoln Defendants' design patent "is wholly unrelated to plaintiff's design patent," she wrote.

"In short, the complaint and related documents before the court, including the documents described above and the PTO record attached to plaintiff’s complaint reflecting that no assignment of plaintiff’s design patent has been recorded with the PTO, do not give rise to any plausible inference that plaintiff’s interest in his design patent was assigned to the Lincoln Defendants by McCloskey," Fleissig wrote. "The complaint therefore fails to state a cause of action, and the court will grant defendants’ motion to dismiss."

Defendants had sought attorney's fees, however, Fleissig denied the request.

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