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ArtSkills, Inc. v. Royal Consumer Products LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 20, 2018

ARTSKILLS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ROYAL CONSUMER PRODUCTS, LLC, Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On September 14, 2017, ArtSkills, Inc. (“Plaintiff”), filed a Complaint against Royal Consumer Products, LLC (“Defendant” or “RCP”), claiming that RCP infringed on two of ArtSkills's patents. Compl., ECF No. 1. On January 30, 2018, RCP filed an Amended Answer with Counterclaims alleging that ArtSkills had engaged in false marking of its products. Am. Answer, ECF No. 34.

         ArtSkills now moves to dismiss RCP's counterclaims alleging false marking. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 40. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         To the extent that the deficiencies identified in this ruling can be addressed, RBC may file a motion for leave to amend its counterclaims by August 24, 2018.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         ArtSkills, a Pennsylvania corporation, “develops and sells poster boards and poster board accessory products, ” including a “Trifold Display Board with Header.” Compl. ¶ 1. ArtSkills claims that its Trifold Board is “a patented display board of the type used to display information for presentation of any kind, such as presentations in classrooms, science fairs, offices, and household related displays, ” and that it is “uniquely designed to remain securely closed and undamaged until ready for use.” Id. ¶ 2.

         ArtSkills alleges that RCP, a Delaware company with headquarters in Norwalk, Connecticut, “is a supplier of office products and related accessories for the consumer and business markets, and sells a variety of products such as printing paper, poster boards, and poster board accessories, ” including “the Eco Brites Project Board with Header” (“RCP Board”). Id. ¶¶ 3-4.

         Artskills alleges that it introduced a number of poster board accessory products in 2005 “in an effort to create a niche industry for poster board accessory products.” Id. ¶ 11-12. ArtSkills alleges that its “poster board accessory products line was an original and entirely new development in the paper and stationary industry, ” and that it “now sells poster board accessory products to more than sixty thousand stores across the country, including large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Michaels.” Id. ¶ 12. Artskills alleges that because of its efforts at creating this niche market, “poster board accessory products became a new category within the stationary industry, and ArtSkills became the leader of that niche industry.” Id.

         ArtSkills alleges that RCP, which has been in the paper business for many years, began to introduce poster board products in the late 2000's to compete with ArtSkills products. Id. ¶ 13. ArtSkills argues that “in the past [RCP] has introduced products that were deliberately designed to duplicate the appearance of ArtSkills products.” Id. ¶ 14. ArtSkills also alleges that “ArtSkills is RCP's chief competitor in this market, and RCP continues to monitor ArtSkills' products and competitive activity.” Id. ¶ 18.[1]

         In 2012, ArtSkills allegedly began to sell its Trifold Display Board, “a multi-panel display board of the general types used [to] display information for presentations of any kind, such as presentations in classrooms, science fairs, offices, and household related displays.” Id. ¶ 19. ArtSkills claims that “[a] key advantage of the ArtSkills Trifold Display Board is that, in contrast to previous designs, the ArtSkills Board consists of a single sheet of material, including three display panels and a header panel, which is uniquely configured to stay securely closed and intact until used by the consumer.” Id.

         ArtSkills alleges that, in 2013, RCP “introduced a product called Royal Eco Brites Project Board with Header, ” which allegedly included “all the unique functional features of the ArtSkills Trifold Display Board, and, like the ArtSkills Board, is configured in the same manner to stay securely closed and intact until used by a consumer.” Id. ¶ 21. ArtSkills alleges that “RCP copied the appearance, design, and functional features of the ArtSkills Trifold Display Board in RCP's Project Board.” Id. ¶ 22.

         B. Procedural History

         On September 14, 2017, ArtSkills filed a Complaint against RCP, claiming that RCP had infringed on two of ArtSkills's patents: No. 9, 495, 886 (“'886 patent”) and No. 9, 076, 352 (“'352 patent”). Compl. Specifically, ArtSkills alleged that RCP's Project Board, the “Royal Eco Brites Project Board with Header, ” infringed on ArtSkills's patent '866, entitled “Multi-Panel Display Device, Blank, and Method of Forming the Device, ” and its patent '352, entitled “Multi-Panel Display Device, Blank, and Method of Forming the Device.” Id. ¶¶ 24, 40; see also Patent '886, Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1; Patent '352, Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 1-2.

         On January 30, 2018, RCP filed an Amended Answer with affirmative defenses and counterclaims. Am. Answer.

         RCP alleged that the Trifold Display does not practice design patent Nos. D739, 467, D754, 253, and D706, 872, “because, among other reasons, the Trifold Display features slots on the free end of the header panel, ” while the patent “claims a design with slots on the edge that is attached to another piece via a ‘preweakened area[.]'” Id. at 9-10; see also Id. at 12-13 (claiming same for design patent No. D754, 253); id. at 15-16 (claiming same for design patent No. D706, 872). RCP alleged that the Trifold Display “features a slot with a ridge, ” while the patent “claims a design featuring a slot that is straight, without any ridge[.]” Id. at 11. RCP also alleged that the Trifold Board “features a header panel mounted by adhesive directly on top of a side panel, ” while the patent “claims a design where the header panel is attached via a [preweakened] area along the side of a side panel, such that the device would lie flat and feature four panels (two side panels, a center panel, and the header panel), ” and that “[t]here is no claim that would cover a design where the header panel lies directly on top of a side panel before it is removed, as practiced by the Trifold Display.” Id.

         On February 13, 2018, ArtSkills moved to dismiss RCP's counterclaims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Rule 9(b). Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 40. RCP objected to the motion. Obj. to Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 43. The Court held a hearing on Artskills's motion to dismiss on July 6, 2018. ECF No. 56.

         II. ...


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