On December 7, 2023, the Federal Court of Canada (the Court) issued its decision in Seismotech IP Holdings Inc. v Apple Canada Inc., 2023 FC 1649, dismissing Seismotech IP Holdings Inc.’s (Seismotech) motion to obtain a Norwich order against Apple Inc. and Apple Canada Inc. (collectively, Apple).

Seismotech owns four patents which relate to methods, apparatuses, media and signals for the management, monitoring, controlling, or billing of public utility usage.  Seismotech brought four actions in the Federal Court against defendants who manufactured, distributed, sold, or used intelligent thermostats in Canada which allegedly infringed its patents.  Two “reverse class actions” were brought against Canadian manufacturers and foreign manufacturers of such thermostats, respectively.  Two other actions target as of yet unidentified individuals residing in Canada and the United States who purchased intelligent thermostats made by Canadian manufacturers and foreign manufacturers.  Seismotech brought a motion for a Norwich order to force Apple to disclose the names and addresses of consumers who downloaded the apps controlling such devices from the App Store.

Ultimately, the Court dismissed Seismotech’s motion for a Norwich order against Apple on the grounds that its claim against the defendants was not bona fide nor was the granting of a Norwich order in the public interest.  The Court found that Seismotech’s statement of claim merely named the infringing devices and asserted that the devices infringed its patent claims without explaining the infringement.  As such, the Court found the claim was “purely speculative,” and therefore could not be bona fide.  Additionally, the Court found that the individual consumers disclosed by the Norwich order could not reasonably defend themselves against Seismotech’s claim in a way that was proportionate to their liability.  This made it foreseeable “that many defendants [would] feel compelled to accept an offer to settle regardless of the merits of the case.”  Therefore, the Court found that it was not in the public interest to grant the Norwich order, as doing so would result in a situation which would deny the defendants meaningful access to justice.

Finding the above reasons sufficient to deny relief, the Court did not address the other parts of the test for issuing a Norwich order nor any jurisdictional arguments. 

Summary By: Claire Bettio


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