Unjust Enrichment For Stealing Ideas Does Not Create Patent Jurisdiction

PatentlyO2006014Thompson v. Microsoft (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Thompson sued Microsoft for unjust enrichment under Michigan law.  Arguing that Microsoft stole his idea, patented it, and implemented it in various products. In its motion to dismiss, Microsoft argued that the claim was preempted by federal patent law. (citing Ultra-Precision).

Instead of hearing the appeal, however, the CAFC declined jurisdiction because the case did not arise under federal patent laws as required by Christianson & Holmes v. Vornado.

Thompson’s well-pleaded complaint does not establish that the right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law. Thus, the district court’s jurisdiction does not “aris[e] under” section 1338.

In particular, the court noted that preemption alone does not create jurisdiction. An inventorship issue might create an issue, but Thompson’s claim could have theoretically succeeded without proving inventorship (in the strict patent sense).

Case transferred to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

4 thoughts on “Unjust Enrichment For Stealing Ideas Does Not Create Patent Jurisdiction

  1. Well, to me it looks like MS patents should be declared invalid (PTO re-examination ?)
    MS “inventors” defrauded USPTO by getting patents on someone else’s ideas presented to them (which he can hopefully prove with some hard evidence)

  2. OK,now what do I tell my client?

    Facts: Outside inventor voluntarily sends an unsolicited, unpatented, unapplied-for idea to my client. My client sends it back and says he doesn’t take outside submissions.

    My client develops something similar. Outside inventor sues my client for unjust enrichment under state law — presumably in federal court under diversity jurisdiction.

    CAFC says state law unjust enrichment claims are preempted by patent statute.

    So I get the trial court to dismiss. Appeal now can’t go to the CAFC because there is no patent jurisdiction on these facts. Case transferred to some other Federal Circuit — say the 6th Circuit.

    Hopefully the 6th Circuit agrees that there is federal preemption of state law claim, or we go to trial.

    Likewise, if lawsuit is filed in state court (no diversity, so no removal), hopefully the state court agrees that there is federal preemption.

    Am I missing something here in my analysis? Thanks.

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