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Gharb v. Mitsubishi Electrict Corp.

United States District Court, D. Columbia

December 11, 2015

SAMY GHARB, Plaintiff,
v.
MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORPORATION et al., Defendants

          Re Document Nos.: 4, 9, 11, 14.

         SAMY GHARB, Plaintiff, Pro se, Switzerland.

         For MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORPORATION, MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC AUTOMATION, INC., Defendants: Joshua Morris Segal, LEAD ATTORNEY, JENNER & BLOCK, LLP, Washington, DC.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.

         Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Strike, Request for Attorney's Fees, and Request for Anti-Suit Injunction; Denying as Moot Plaintiff's First and Second Requests for Payment of Damages

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Samy Gharb has filed a pro se complaint against Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc. (MEAU), Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO), and five individuals currently or formerly employed by MELCO in Japan. Mr. Gharb alleges that Defendants infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,552,654 (the '654 patent), held by Mr. Gharb. See Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 1. This is the third instance in which Mr. Gharb has filed a complaint alleging that a Mitsubishi Electric entity infringed the '654 patent, and each of the two prior complaints alleging infringement by a Mitsubishi Electric entity were dismissed with prejudice at the pleading stage. See Gharb v. Mitsubishi Elec. Automation, Inc., No. 10-7204, 2012 WL 1986435, at *7 (N.D.Ill. June 4, 2012) ( Gharb I ); Gharb v. United States, No. 12-0913, 112 Fed.Cl. 94, 98 (Fed. Cl. 2013) ( Gharb II ) (finding that the United States government did not infringe the '654 patent by entering into a contract with MELCO). However, three years later, Mr. Gharb continues his litigation campaign against Defendants by filing meritless pleadings in this Court, which accuse Defendants and their counsel of " hiding trademarks."

         Defendants MELCO and MEAU now move to dismiss Mr. Gharb's claims, and they request an award of attorney's fees. MELCO and MEAU also request an anti-suit injunction against Mr. Gharb to prevent him from filing any future claims against them arising out of the '654 patent. Lastly, MELCO and MEAU move to strike Mr. Gharb's later filing, titled " Lawsuit against Mr Joshua M Segal and Jenner & Block," which includes allegations against MELCO and MEAU's counsel.

         The Court finds that Mr. Gharb's claims are barred by res judicata, that Mr. Gharb fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and that the time period for enforcing the '654 patent has expired. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Mr. Gharb's complaint, grants MELCO and MEAU's motion to strike Mr. Gharb's " Lawsuit" against their counsel, grants MELCO and MEAU's request for attorney's fees, and grants MELCO and MEAU's request for an anti-suit injunction.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Mr. Gharb is the inventor and owner of the '654 patent " Security System with a Mobile Telephone." Gharb II, 112 Fed.Cl. at 95; see also Complaint Exhibit 1, Gharb II, 112 Fed.Cl. 94 (No. 12-0913), ECF No. 1.[1] Mr. Gharb filed an application for the '654 patent on May 25, 2000, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the patent on April 22, 2003. See Complaint Exhibit I, Gharb II, 112 Fed.Cl. 94 (No. 12-0913). Mr. Gharb's patent expired on April 22, 2007, " due to Mr. Gharb's non-payment of the maintenance fees required under 37 C.F.R. § 1.362." Unitronics (1989) (R" G) Ltd. v. Gharb, 532 F.Supp.2d 25, 26 (D.D.C. 2008). In his Complaint, Mr. Gharb appears to allege that Defendants have sold security systems with mobile telephones under the model designation of " PLC ALPHA XL" that infringe the '654 patent. See Compl. 2, 11-12 (alleging that " [t]he team of Mitsubishi Electric has stolen my invention U.S. patent No. 6,552,654" and that " [the] Mitsubishi team sold PLC ALPHA XL WITH GSM MOBILE PHONE WITHOUT ANY LEGAL PATENT RIGHT" (emphasis omitted)).

         This is not the first instance in which Mr. Gharb has sued a Mitsubishi Electric entity alleging that the ALPHA line of products, including the " PLC ALPHA XL," infringed the '654 patent. In 2010, Mr. Gharb filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois claiming that both MEAU and MELCO, among others, infringed the '654 patent. See Complaint, Gharb I, 2012 WL 1986435 (N.D.Ill. 2012) (No. 10-7204), ECF No. 1. Mr. Gharb subsequently amended his complaint, focusing his claims solely on MEAU and withdrawing his claims against the other defendants, including MELCO. See First Amended Complaint at 2, Gharb I, 2012 WL 1986435 (N.D.Ill. 2012) (No. 10-7204), ECF No. 15. MEAU moved to dismiss Mr. Gharb's amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Mr. Gharb's complaint failed to state a plausible claim for direct or indirect infringement as a matter of law. See Motion to Dismiss, Gharb I, 2012 WL 1986435 (N.D.Ill. 2012) (No. 10-7204), ECF No. 23; Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss at 5-12, Gharb I, 2012 WL 1986435 (N.D.Ill. 2012) (No. 10-7204), ECF No. 24. The court granted MEAU's motion and found that Mr. Gharb's complaint failed to state a claim for direct or indirect infringement as a matter of law. See Gharb I, 2012 WL 1986435, at *7. Mr. Gharb's complaint was dismissed with prejudice. See id.

         Approximately six months later, Mr. Gharb filed a complaint in the United States Court of Federal Claims, alleging that MELCO, MEAU, the United States, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the State of Japan, the Ministry of Commerce of Japan, and two individuals involved in Gharb I (Judge Edmond Chang, and MELCO's lead counsel, Terrence J. Traux) infringed the '654 patent. See Complaint at 1, Gharb II, 112 Fed.Cl. 94 (No. 12-0913), ECF No. 1. The United States moved to dismiss the complaint, and the court dismissed the case with prejudice. See Gharb II, 112 Fed.Cl. at 98. The claims against the Mitsubishi defendants were dismissed because the Court of Federal Claims lacks jurisdiction over claims against private corporations. See id. at 96-97 (" The only proper defendant for any matter before this court is the United States . . . ." (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Stephenson v. United States, 58 Fed.Cl. 186, 190 (Fed. Cl. 2003))).

         Almost two years later, Mr. Gharb filed a new complaint in this Court in March 2015, alleging once again that MELCO, MEAU, and now five individuals formerly or currently employed with MELCO in Japan have infringed the '654 patent. See Compl. 2-3. Defendants MELCO and MEAU now move to dismiss the complaint on three grounds. First, MELCO and MEAU argue that Mr. Gharb's claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. See Mem. Supp. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss 7-9, ECF No. 5. Second, MELCO and MEAU contend that the complaint fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See id. at 6, 9-11. Third, MELCO and MEAU explain that the '654 patent expired in 2007, and Mr. Gharb's time period for enforcing the '654 patent elapsed six years later on April 22, 2013. See id. at 9. Finally, MELCO and MEAU also request that the Court award attorney's fees to MELCO and enter an anti-suit injunction barring Mr. Gharb from suing MELCO in any court. See id. at 12-13.

         Mr. Gharb responds with the same claims he alleged in his original complaint. See Pl.'s Answer Defs. Mot. Dismiss 13, ECF No. 8. Mr. Gharb has also filed two " Requests for payment of damages" that assert no new claims. See Pl.'s Request for Payment of Damages, ECF No. 9; Pl.'s Second Request for Payment of Damages, ECF No. 11. Lastly, Mr. Gharb has filed a " Lawsuit against Mr Joshua M Segal and Jenner & Block" with the Court, appearing to seek to add as defendants the law firm of Jenner & Block and Joshua Segal, MELCO's counsel in this case. See ECF No. 13. Defendants have filed a motion to strike Mr. Gharb's filing as " frivolous." See Defs.' Mot. Strike, ECF No. 14; Mem. Supp. Defs.' Mot. Strike 1-2, ECF No. 15.

         Because the Court agrees with Defendants' view of the case, the Court will dismiss Mr. Gharb's complaint, grant MELCO and MEAU's motion to strike, grant MELCO and MEAU's request for attorney's fees, and grant MELCO and MEAU's request for an anti-suit injunction. The Court will deny as moot Mr. Gharb's requests for payment of damages.

         III. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain " a short and plain statement of the claim" in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Brewer v. District of Columbia, 891 F.Supp.2d 126, 130 (D.D.C. 2012). A court considering such a motion presumes that the complaint's factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-14, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002); Bryant v. Pepco, 730 F.Supp.2d 25, 28-29 (D.D.C. 2010).

         Nevertheless, " [t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). This means that a plaintiff's factual allegations " must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citations and footnote omitted). " Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," are therefore insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true, see id., nor must a court presume the veracity of the legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations, see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         A pro se complaint is held to " less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (internal quotation mark omitted) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)). But even pro se litigants " must plead 'factual matter' that permits the court to infer 'more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'" Jones v. Horne, 634 F.3d 588, 596, 394 U.S.App.D.C. 261 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82, 386 U.S.App.D.C. 144 (D.C. Cir. 2009)). Moreover, " [a] pro se complaint, like any other, must present a claim upon which relief can be granted." Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1308, 211 U.S.App.D.C. 75 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (per curiam).

         B. Res Judicata

         Mr. Gharb's claims against Defendant MEAU are barred by the doctrine of res judicata, which bars " successive litigation of the very same claim, whether or not relitigation of the claim raises the same issues as the earlier suit." [2]Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892, 128 S.Ct. 2161, 171 L.Ed.2d 155 (2008) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 748, 121 S.Ct. 1808, 149 L.Ed.2d 968 (2001)). Under the doctrine of res judicata, a claim " will be barred if there has been prior litigation (1) involving the same claims or cause of action, (2) between the same parties or their privies, and (3) there has been a final, valid judgment on the merits, (4) ...


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