Pleading Intent to Deceive in False Marking: How much is enough?

Written by Scott Daniels (partner in Westerman Hattori Daniels & Adrian and Practice Center Contributor).

It is undisputed that a qui tam claim for false patent marking under 35 U.S.C. § 292 requires, in addition to marking an unpatented article, that the marking be done with intent to deceive the publicForest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Co., 590 F.3d 1295, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2009).  But how specifically must the qui tam plaintiff plead “intent to deceive” to comply with the Rule 9(b) requirement that allegations of fraud be made with particularity?  Unfortunately, the CAFC declined to answer that question in Stauffer v. Brooks Brothers, Inc., decided last month.  Without guidance from the CAFC, the answer appears to depend upon the court in which the complaint is filed.

At the more lenient end of the spectrum is Judge Robert W. Gettleman who in Simonian v. Oreck, Case No. 1:10-cv-01224 (N.D. Ill, August 23, 2010) denied the Defendant Oreck’s motion under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss because of the failure of the complaint to make more than a general allegation of deceptive intent. Judge Gettleman applied the who-how-what-when-where standard that has been used by a number of courts.  He concluded that Plaintiff Simonian’s complaint adequately stated that Oreck (the who) had deliberately falsely marked (the how), the particular product (the what), the marking was current (the when), within the District and throughout the United States (the where).  He also found that the allegations, despite their generality, created a presumption: “By alleging that defendants had knowledge of their false marking and that the marks were false creates a rebuttable presumption of deceptive intent.” (more…)