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Nuance Communications Inc. v. Omilia Natural Language Solutions, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 16, 2019

NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
OMILIA NATURAL LANGUAGE SOLUTIONS, LTD., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Patti B. Saris Chief United States District Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Nuance Communications, Inc. (“Nuance”) brings this action against Omilia Natural Language Solutions, Ltd. (“Omilia”) alleging infringement of eight patents belonging to Nuance. The patents concern automated speech recognition and interactive voice response systems commonly used in call centers around the world. Omilia, a Cypriot corporation, moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. In the alternative, Omilia asks the Court to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois.[1] Omilia also moved to dismiss for improper service but since has waived that argument. Nuance opposes all relief sought by Omilia.

         After hearing, the Court DENIES Omilia's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 14).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff “need[] only to make a prima facie showing that the defendants were subject to personal jurisdiction.” Silent Drive, Inc. v. Strong Indus., Inc., 326 F.3d 1194, 1201 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).[2] The “court must accept the uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and resolve any factual conflicts in the affidavits in the plaintiff's favor.” Elecs. for Imaging, Inc. v. Coyle, 340 F.3d 1344, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the following factual background comes from Nuance's complaint along with the affidavits and exhibits submitted by both parties. The facts are assumed to be true, either because they are affirmatively alleged by Nuance or because they are otherwise uncontradicted.

         I. Relevant Technology and Alleged Infringement

         Nuance is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Burlington, Massachusetts. Nuance designs automated speech recognition and transcription technology, including the Conversational Interactive Voice Response system. Call centers use these systems around the world and in multiple languages. Nuance owns patents covering its technologies and alleges that Omilia infringed eight of its patents.

         Omilia is based in Cyprus and entered the North American market in 2015. Omilia released a “Conversational Virtual Agent solution” for Royal Bank of Canada in 2016. Dkt. No. 22 at 7. Omilia also produces an “Omni-Channel Conversational Platform” called DiaManT, which includes “Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Understanding, ” “Conversational Virtual Agents, ” “Natural Language UI, ” “an intelligent Dialog Management platform, ” and a “Natural Language Understanding engine.” Id. Nuance and Omilia have a past business relationship with each other. Omilia licensed speech verification software from Nuance for use in its products overseas for an unspecified amount of time. The relationship between the two companies ended “years ago.” Dkt. No. 1 at 2.

         On October 9, 2018, after discovering Omilia's allegedly infringing technology, Nuance sent a letter notifying Omilia of its infringement. Omilia responded to Nuance stating that it would examine the patents and provide a response addressing Nuance's concerns. Four months later, on February 12, 2019, Nuance received a follow-up email in which Omilia's CEO said that Omilia's attorneys were looking into the matter, and Omilia intended to respond to Nuance. On March 12, 2019, Nuance received another email from Omilia stating only that “Omilia does not infringe the Nuance patents, ” and referring to “prior art publications that are relevant to the Nuance patent claims.” Id. at 8. On March 15, 2019, Nuance requested further details and a substantive response regarding the alleged infringement but never received any response from Omilia. On June 28, 2019, Nuance filed a complaint for patent infringement in this Court.

         II. Omilia's Contacts with Massachusetts

         From January 2015 to October 2018 -- the month in which Nuance notified Omilia of its alleged infringement -- Omilia identified Boston as its “North America Office” on its website. Dkt. No. 22 at 7-8. On its website, Omilia claimed to be working with financial institutions in the United States to offer the allegedly infringing platform to customers. The website also listed a Boston address and phone number. During that period the website listed Quinn Agen (“Agen”) as its contact for its North America Office in Boston. Omilia states that Agen “was a freelance, independent contractor consultant to Omilia, ” and not an agent. Dkt. No. 15 at 7. Until 2017, however, Omilia held Agen out as joining “Omilia in 2012 as employee number 6 and since then has seen the company evolve from a small team in Greece to large-scale global operation with a Virtual Assistant platform, ” and “return[ing] to the United States in 2015 to spearhead Omilia's entry into the North American market.” Dkt. No. 22 at 8. Omilia's CEO and founder, Dimitris Vassos, indicated on his LinkedIn profile that he worked for “Omilia - Conversational Intelligence” in “Boston USA.” Id. Further, Omilia hired an intern who went to school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The intern, Theo Sechopoulos, worked for Omilia in Athens from June 6, 2017 to July 7, 2017, and never worked for Omilia in Boston.

         Omilia maintained an office at 51 Melcher Street, 1st Floor, Boston, Ma 02210 (“Melcher Street”). Melcher Street is the same address that Omilia listed on its website as its “North American Office.” Id. at 7-8. Omilia did not own the building nor solely occupy it. Rather, Omilia used Melcher Street, a WeWork facility, for receipt of mail and for access to hourly conference room rentals. No. Omilia employees regularly worked at Melcher Street. Omilia made neither sales of products, nor offers to sell products from Melcher Street. Omilia's arrangement with WeWork terminated in November 2017.

         Omilia sponsored and attended a conference in Boston in 2017.[3] At the American Banker Conference, Agen and representatives from Royal Bank of Canada, an important Omilia customer in North America, gave a presentation about Royal Bank of Canada's use of Omilia's interactive voice recognition platform. Representatives from numerous financial institutions ...


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