Submitting patent fits as an nameless plaintiff within the ND Sick. – Is that attainable?
On September 4, 2020, ABC Corporation I et al. v. The partnerships and unincorporated associations listed in Appendix “A”, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, ruled that plaintiffs in patent infringement lawsuits could not hide their identities by filing suits under aliases. The plaintiffs had filed using pseudonyms in order to give the defendants no clue and to give them the opportunity to reorganize themselves under new aliases of the sellers and to avoid prosecution.
The plaintiffs create, manufacture and sell products with patented designs. They anonymously filed a complaint, including sealed exhibits, alleging that the defendants infringed plaintiffs’ patented designs. Plaintiffs alleged defendants sold infringing products to consumers in Illinois and the United States through online stores that misleadingly portrayed defendants as authorized online retailers. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants regularly registered or acquired new seller aliases in order to hide their identities and avoid cessation of business.
After the complaint was filed, the Northern District of Illinois issued an order to explain why the documents should not be unsealed and why the complaint should not be removed because plaintiffs were filed under pseudonyms. In response to the order, plaintiffs cited Doe v Village of Deerfield, which allows a party, with the court’s permission, to file anonymously in “exceptional circumstances”. Such exceptional circumstances must outweigh both public policy in favor of identified parties and the prejudice against the opposing party that would result from anonymity. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, the need to protect state secrets, trade secrets or victims of abuse, and “allegations by a party that they fear retaliation”.
Here, the plaintiffs’ theory of filing anonymously was to prevent the defendants from being pre-notified of the lawsuit and to create new, fictitious seller names to evade the case. According to the court, however, this reasoning did not correspond to the necessary burden to proceed anonymously in the case of patent infringement, since the defendants could use new fictitious seller names even after the court had issued an injunction. The court continued that “[a] A patent infringement case without further reasons is not sufficient to circumvent the disclosure obligations of the federal regulation. “As a result, the complaint was removed and the court granted plaintiffs permission to file an amended complaint that reflected the real names of the companies.
The court’s decision also specified “exceptional circumstances” related to intellectual property cases, with the exception of a desire to avoid reference to an elusive defendant as a sufficient basis for filing a lawsuit anonymously. Therefore, in the absence of compelling reasons for anonymity, plaintiffs may be required to provide their real names on patent infringement-related court files, despite any risk or fear involved.
Although filing patent proceedings as an anonymous plaintiff may not be an option unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated, an alternative that could prevent a defendant from being evaded is to file a motion for interim relief at the same time as the appeal is filed for status quo of the plaintiff’s case. Unlike ABC Corporation I plaintiffs, who filed a complaint with intent to seek injunction later, patent owners filing an appeal in connection with a motion for injunction can successfully prevent the defendants from obtaining evidence for remove a violation Renewal under new seller aliases.
In addition to filing a complaint and requesting an injunction at the same time, patent owners can notify third party e-commerce sites and request the permanent removal of the seller and / or infringing material. Ecommerce companies like Amazon and Alibaba provide platforms where owners can anonymously report violations of their patented works and report concerns about inappropriate listings, other sellers, and policy violations. Once a report has been submitted, it is evaluated in a multi-stage process that can lead to the resolution of the alleged conflict. Such an option allows patent holders to avoid the potentially significant cost of federal litigation and seamlessly seek protection for their works without revealing their names or other identifiable information to the infringers. It would likely be more difficult for an infringer to evade Amazon, with whom they already have an Amazon seller relationship.