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Tadayon v. DATTCO, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 30, 2016

SAIED TADAYON and BIJAN TADAYON, Plaintiffs,
v.
DATTCO, INC., Defendant, MAHIN TEHRANI, Counterclaim defendant, SAUCON TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Intervenor defendant.

OMNIBUS RULING RE PENDING MOTIONS

JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This is a patent case between two brothers, plaintiffs Saied and Bijan Tadayon, their mother, counterclaim defendant Mahin Tehrani, and two companies-DATTCO, Inc., and Saucon Technologies, Inc.-that the Tadayon brothers once claimed infringed their patent. This lawsuit is just one of several lawsuits brought by the Tadayons in federal courts up and down the Eastern Seaboard seeking to enforce their patent, which purports to reduce the radiation the human body absorbs from wireless communication. The Tadayons have alleged that numerous bus companies, such as defendant DATTCO, infringe their patent when they use onboard wi-fi technology. Most of these cases have settled, and none have reached a final judgment on the merits.

Saucon is one of several companies that supply onboard wi-fi systems to bus companies. Following previous lawsuits that implicated their technology, Saucon sought reexamination of the Tadayons' patent in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). As a result of this reexamination, many key claims of the Tadayons' patent were invalidated. The brothers then entered a “Stipulation of Covenant” promising not to sue defendants for infringement and sought leave to withdraw their infringement claim. Defendants, however, have continued to press their counterclaims. These include claims of patent invalidity, patent misuse, inequitable conduct, conspiracy to commit fraud, and a claim for attorney's fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. They also bring inequitable conduct and conspiracy claims against Tehrani, the alleged inventor of the patent. The Tadayons and Tehrani have moved to dismiss these counterclaims on numerous theories, and Tehrani moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Docs. #107, #110.

As to the counterclaims for patent invalidity, patent misuse, and inequitable conduct, I conclude that the Tadayons' stipulation of covenant moots these counterclaims. I further conclude, however, that two of the counterclaims-for conspiracy to commit fraud and for an award of attorney's fees-are not moot and that defendants have plausibly alleged grounds for relief against both the Tadayons and Tehrani. In addition, I conclude that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Tehrani, that it would not be appropriate to transfer this action to another federal court, and that plaintiffs are not entitled to a more definite statement.

Background

Saied and Bijan Tadayon immigrated to the United States from Iran with their mother, Mahin Tehrani. They both attended Cornell University and the Georgetown University Law Center, and both have PhDs in the sciences. Saied is a registered patent attorney, and Bijan a registered patent agent. Tehrani was a high school science teacher in Iran. Tehrani and the Tadayons live at the same address in Maryland.

DATTCO is a bus company that operates in the New York and New England areas, and offers onboard wi-fi to its customers. Saucon is a wireless provider that installs and maintains the routers that produce this wi-fi.

In 2001, with the assistance of Bijan, Tehrani submitted an application to the USPTO for a patent entitled, “Safe Method and System for Mobile or Wireless Computing or Communication Devices.” The USPTO granted Tehrani U.S. Patent 7, 031, 657, (the “'657 patent”) consisting of 27 claims, and she almost immediately assigned it to Bijan. In May 2010, Bijan assigned half his interest in the patent to Saied.

The '657 patent describes a “new method and system . . . to drastically reduce the power absorbed by the body of the [users] of mobile or wireless computing or communication devices, such as cell phones.” Doc. #1-1 at 2. In one version of the patented system, the wireless transmission uses multiple antennas, and the transmission passes through multiple stages, so that the antenna closest to the user “operates with an extremely low power for short distances.” Id. In an alternative version, the same object is achieved by using varying frequencies, “selected from a range of frequencies corresponded to the low power of absorption of a specific human tissue or [] overall human body.” Id. The patent is accompanied by pictures describing the invention and prior art, such as the following image:

Beginning in 2010, the brothers began litigating patent infringement lawsuits against bus companies that used on-board wi-fi.[1] It appears that many of these cases settled and that none reached a ruling on the merits. The Tadayons filed the instant case in November 2012, alleging that DATTCO infringed claims 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 16, 17, 19, 24 and 25 of the '657 patent. Doc. #1 at 3. Defendant Saucon sought leave to intervene, which the Court granted.

(IMAGE OMITTED)

Docs. #21, #30.

The Tadayons had previously filed a lawsuit against Saucon in the District of Maryland, which was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, and they also sued other Saucon clients. Following these suits, Saucon filed a Request for Inter Partes Rexamination of the '657 patent with the USPTO in July 2011, challenging claims 1, 2, 11-15, 21 and 25. On reexamination, all the claims except for Claim 21[2] were rejected for obviousness. The rejections were affirmed by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board and the Federal Circuit. Tadayon v. Saucon, 611 Fed.App'x 983 (Fed. Cir. 2015).

Defendants DATTCO and Saucon have filed counterclaims against both the Tadayons and their mother, Tehrani, alleging (1) invalidity of the '657 patent; (2) patent misuse; (3) inequitable conduct; (4) conspiracy to commit fraud; and (5) that this is an exceptional case for attorney's fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285. Docs. #17, #106.[3] They contend that the '657 patent is materially identical to Bluetooth technology that existed at the time of filing. They further contend that the Tadayons and Tehrani were well aware of this technology, and ...


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