A recent decision by Judge Richard G. Andrews shows that courts need not provide parties with leave to amend pleadings where the proposed amendments are inconsequential. LG Electronics, Inc. v. Asko Appliances, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 08-828-RGA (D. Del. Oct. 17, 2012). The defendants’ motion sought leave to “pare down their inequitable conduct claims, clarif[y] their antitrust counterclaims, and add a defense of intervening rights.” Id. at 1. The Court denied the motion with respect to the first two proposed amendments (deleting over 100 paragraphs relating to inequitable conduct and “refram[ing]” antitrust issues). Id. The Court explained that “narrowing of the inequitable conduct issues can be achieved by stipulation or other understanding among the parties,” and the proposed antitrust amendments “do not add new theories, factual disputes or issues to the case.” Id. The Court explained, “[j]ustice does not require providing leave to make these inconsequential amendments.” Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2)).
The Court did not find the proposed addition of an intervening rights defense to be inconsequential, though, and granted leave to make that amendment. Id. at 2. The Court found that the defendants timely sought to add an intervening rights defense after the plaintiff was granted leave to amend its infringement contentions regarding claims that were altered by reexamination. Id. The Court explained, “[w]hile the intervening rights defense will require technical and legal analyses of the extent to which the reexamined claims have changed, Defendants assert their defense is germane to the as-yet-unscheduled damages portion of the case, and not to the pending liability phase.” Id. Based on that limitation, the Court found that the defendants could add an intervening rights defense without unduly burdening or prejudicing the plaintiffs or the Court. Id.