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Judge Fallon grants leave to add prior use affirmative defense

In Boston Scientific Corporation, et al. v. Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, C.A. No. 16-275-SLR-SRF (D. Del. Feb. 28, 2017), Magistrate Judge Sherry R. Fallon granted defendant and counterclaim/third-party plaintiff (collectively, “Edwards”)’s motion for leave to amend their answer to add a prior use defense pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 273.

Evaluating the proposed amendment under Rule 15, the Court concluded that the proposed affirmative defense was “factually sufficient” for this stage of the proceedings, where Plaintiffs had not pointed to any authority requiring a heightened pleading standard for affirmative defenses – rather, affirmative defenses are not held to the same pleading standard as claims or counterclaims. Id. at 3-4.  The Court also held that the new defense would not cause undue delay where the motion was filed prior to the case’s deadline for amendment of pleadings and where the case was in its early stages, with fact discovery closing in spring 2017. Id. at 4.  As to prejudice, although Plaintiffs “claim[] that [they] did not anticipate the addition of Edwards’ prior use defense when [they] negotiated the discovery limits in the scheduling order, [Plaintiffs] acknowledged the possibility of an amended answer by stipulating to the deadline for amended pleadings in the scheduling order at the time of discovery negotiations.” Id. at 5.

However, “[t]o the extent [Plaintiffs] would be prejudiced by the need to obtain additional discovery directed to the prior use defense, a limited grant of additional discovery [was] warranted.” Id. Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ request for an increase in their limits on discovery requests and an extension to serve new document requests, but did not provide Plaintiffs with the full requested increase, as “[i]n view of the unused requests available to [Plaintiffs] under the scheduling order . . . the number of additional requests sought by [Plaintiffs] is unnecessary.” Id. at 6.

Boston Scientific Corporation, et al. v. Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, C.A. No. 16-275-SLR-SRF (D. Del. Feb. 28, 2017)

 

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