United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
President and Fellows of Harvard College
("Harvard") filed this lawsuit against Micron
Technologies, LLC ("Micron"), alleging infringement
of two of Harvard's patents: the 6, 969, 539 patent
("'539 Patent") and the 8, 334, 016 patent
("'016 Patent").Compl. ¶¶ 4, 22, 38, ECF
No. 1. These patents protect particular methods and materials
for completing atomic layer disposition ("ALD"), a
process by which a thin film is applied to microelectronics
to improve their functioning. Id. at ¶¶
11-13. Harvard alleges that Micron uses certain chemical
precursors and processes claimed by the '539 Patent and
'016 Patent to perform ALD on computer chips that Micron
manufactures. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16, 23-27,
filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
Micron Technology, Inc.'s Mot. Dismiss Compl., ECF No.
19, arguing that Harvard had not pleaded sufficient facts to
suggest that Micron uses the patented ALD processes, Def.
Micron Technology, Inc.'s Mem. Law. Supp. Mot. Dismiss
("Def.'s Mem. Mot. Dismiss") 4, ECF No. 20. In
its complaint, Harvard relied on two publications suggesting
Harvard's patented ALD precursors are commonly used to
create the type of film found on Micron's computer chips.
Compl. ¶ 35. Micron argued this reliance failed to
establish plausibility that Micron actually used the
patented technology because the articles did no more than
indicate that such patented precursors are
"common." Def.'s Mem. Mot. Dismiss 2-3. This
Court granted Micron's motion, dismissing Harvard's
complaint with leave for Harvard to file for leave to file an
amended complaint within 30 days. Tr. Mot. Dismiss 8:21-9:11,
ECF No. 31. Harvard has now moved for such leave, Pl's
Mot. Leave File Am. Compl. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) ("Mot.
Leave"), ECF No. 35, and filed the proposed amended
complaint, Mot. Leave, Ex. 1, Am. Compl. 2-32, ECF No. 35-2.
The parties have fully briefed the issues. Pl's Mem.
Supp. Mot. Leave File Am. Compl. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), ECF
No. 36; Harvard's Reply Supp. Mot. Leave. File Am. Compl.
("Pl's Reply"), ECF No. 45; Def. Micron
Technology Inc.'s Opp'n Pl's Mot. Leave File Am.
Compl. ("Def.'s Opp'n"), ECF No. 39;
Micron's Sur-Reply Opp'n Harvard's Mot. Leave
File Am. Compl., ECF No. 48.
argues that Harvard's proposed amended complaint fails to
cure the deficiencies of the original. Def.'s Opp'n
4-14. Harvard responds that it sufficiently states a claim.
Pl's Reply 1-6. This Court concludes that Harvard's
proposed amended complaint merits granting Harvard leave to
may amend its pleading by leave of the court, which should be
"freely give[n] . . . when justice so requires."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Generally, a court ought grant leave
to amend unless such an amendment was made in bad faith, was
unduly delayed, or would prove futile. Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
amended complaint is futile "if the pined-for amendment
does not plead enough to make out a plausible claim for
relief." HSBC Realty Credit Corp. (USA) v.
O'Neill, 745 F.3d 564, 578 (1st Cir. 2014). To
assess futility, a court applies the same legal standard as
that of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
Glassman v. Computervision Corp.,
90 F.3d 617, 623 (1st Cir. 1996); that is, whether the
plaintiff has pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).A plaintiff
need not prove that he or she will prevail at trial, but must
establish more than simply a possibility of entitlement to
relief. See Garcia-Catalan v. United States, 734
F.3d 100, 102-03 (1st Cir. 2013).
argued by Micron, Harvard's amended complaint is largely
identical to its original complaint. See Def.'s
Opp'n 4. A notable difference, however, is Harvard's
reference to the 8, 394, 725 patent held by Micron
("'725 Patent"). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 44 n.15,
68 n.37, 78 n.43, 82 n.45. This alteration of Harvard's
complaint is substantial. The previous iteration of the
complaint did not successfully link Micron to use of the
patented ALD precursors; instead, it merely suggested use of
those precursors is common, without indicating what
"common" means. Compl. ¶¶ 53, 56, 60, 62;
see also Tr. Mot. Dismiss 6:7-16. Harvard admitted
there are multiple methods of achieving the film found on
Micron's chips, and Harvard had no way of demonstrating
Micron used the patented "common" method and not
one of the other procedures. Tr. Mot. Dismiss 5:13-6:16.
Hence, all Harvard plausibly could argue with regard to
Micron is that Micron's chips possessed a film (which
itself is not patented), and Harvard's patented method is
one of a number of possible ways to create that film. That
is, Harvard suggested that it is possible that Micron uses
Harvard's patented precursors without rendering it
plausible that Micron does so. A complaint that merely argues
it is possible the defendant infringes is insufficient under
the Twombly standard. See Garcia-Catalan
734 F.3d at 104-05.
amended complaint, however, Harvard does more than simply
state that Micron might use the patented method because it is
common. Harvard alleges that Micron has publicly contemplated
using the patented precursors, as evidenced by Micron's
own patents. Am. Compl. ¶ 44. In the '725 Patent,
Micron suggests using alkylamides as an ALD precursor.
Def.'s Opp'n, Ex. B, '725 Patent col.5, 11.24-30,
ECF No. 39-3. Alkylamides are amongst the precursors
encompassed by claim 24 of Harvard's '539 Patent.
Compl., Ex. B, '539 Patent col.32, 11.17-22. This
explicit identification of a patented precursor makes it
plausible to believe that Micron infringed upon the '539
Patent, and that plausibility is all that is needed to
survive a motion to dismiss, see Twombly, 550 U.S.
the amended complaint survives the Twombly standard,
its filing would not be futile. See HSBC, 745 F.3d
at 578. Allowing Harvard to file its amended complaint would
not do injustice to Micron, nor has the amended complaint
been filed with undue delay or in bad faith. Accordingly,
this Court ought freely grant leave to amend. See
Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.
clear, Harvard's complaint is nearly identical to the
previous iteration and still contains references to its
precursors being common without any indication of what
"common" means, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 42, 45, 68,
78, 82. These allegations remain problematic. Nonetheless,
because of the new reference to Micron's patent, Harvard
has pushed its complaint from possible to plausible, all that
is required for the amended complaint to be deemed
non-futile. HSBC, 745 F.3d at 578.
Harvard's amended complaint states plausible grounds for
relief, this Court GRANTS Harvard leave to ...