As we pointed out last July, Judge Connolly has publicly questioned (several times) whether post-complaint knowledge is enough to state a claim for willfulness or indirect infringement. Today, he answered that question with a resounding no.
In nearly two full pages of footnotes, Judge Connolly collected the conflicting authority across the nation—and within the district—on whether an infringement complaint, by itself, is enough to support the knowledge element of willful and indirect infringement claims.
He went on to explain his own views:
ZapFraud has identified, and I know of, no area of tort law other than patent infringement where courts have allowed a plaintiff to prove an element of a legal claim with evidence that the plaintiff filed the claim. The limited authority vested in our courts by the Constitution and the limited resources made available to our courts by Congress counsel against encouraging plaintiffs to create claims by filing claims. It seems to me neither wise nor consistent with principles of judicial economy to allow court dockets to serve as notice boards for future legal claims for indirect infringement and enhanced damages.
Against this backdrop, the court concluded that:
in the absence of binding authority to the contrary from the Federal Circuit and Supreme Court, I will adopt the rule that the operative complaint in a lawsuit fails to state a claim for indirect patent infringement where the defendant's alleged knowledge of the asserted patents is based solely on the content of that complaint or a prior version of the complaint filed in the same lawsuit. And I conclude that the operative complaint in a lawsuit fails to state a claim for willfulness-based enhanced damages under § 284 where the defendant's alleged knowledge of the asserted patents is based solely on the content of that complaint or a prior version of the complaint filed in the same lawsuit.
We knew that this is where Judge Connolly was likely headed, but it's always helpful to have a crystal-clear line in the sand.