Judge Sleet dismisses first-filed declaratory judgment action in favor of patent infringement action proceeding in the Southern District of Texas
Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently considered whether it was appropriate to dismiss a first-filed declaratory judgment action or transfer the action to the Southern District of Texas where a later-filed patent infringement suit was pending. Woodbolt Distribution, LLC d/b/a Woodbolt Int’l v. Natural Alternatives Int’l, Inc., C.A. No. 11-1266-GMS (D. Del. Jan. 23, 2013). Judge Sleet noted that while it is in the Court’s discretion to dismiss declaratory judgment actions, dismissal should not conflict with the “first-filed” rule – i.e., dismissal cannot be based soled on the existence of a parallel patent infringement suit later-filed in another district. Id. at 3. Here, Judge Sleet determined that dismissal was warranted because Texas was a more convenient forum for all parties and for potential witnesses. Also, the Texas action was progressing more quickly and could continue to proceed “free from the specter of inconsistent judgments.” Id. at 7. Judge Sleet determined that dismissing this action did not conflict with the “first-filed” rule because, although the rule was applicable, there was evidence that the declaratory judgment action appeared to be “‘anticipatory’ and thus present[ed] a common exception to the application of the [first-filed rule].” Id. at 8.