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Decision Clears Way for Four New Stent Cases to Go Forward

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In the ongoing battle between Boston Scientific Corporation, Johnson & Johnson Inc. and Cordis Corporation, the District of Delaware recently handed BSC a victory, allowing it to proceed in four declaratory judgment actions each seeking a judgment on invalidity on one of four patents related to drug-eluting coronary stent technology. Boston Scientific Corporation v. Johnson & Johnson Inc. and Cordis Corporation, C.A. Nos. 07-333-SLR, 07-348-SLR, 07-409-SLR, 07-765-SLR, Memo. Op. (D. Del. Jan. 24, 2008). BSC manufactures a private-labeled version of a stent manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. There are four lawsuits currently pending in the District of New Jersey where Johnson & Johnson asserts infringement of the same four patents at issue in the Delaware litigation, however, the defendant in those cases is Abbott Laboratories.

Johnson & Johnson moved to dismiss all four actions for failure to allege imminent harm necessary for declaratory judgment jurisdiction and also moved to transfer the four cases to the District of New Jersey where its earlier-filed cases are pending.

The Court found that J&J’s Jekyll & Hyde jurisdictional argument was not enough to warrant dismissal of the actions. In the District of New Jersey actions, J&J accuses Abbott Laboratories’ stent product (identical to that of BSC) of infringing the same patents-in-suit despite the fact that Abbott’s product was pending launch in 2008 and was only pending FDA approval. In moving to dismiss the Delaware actions, J&J argued that there could not be declaratory judgment jurisdiction because BSC is not currently marketing or selling the stent (although it has announced its intention to start selling in 2008) and is still awaiting FDA approval. Judge Robinson stated that J&J “can not have it both ways” and therefore denied their motions to dismiss

The Court further denied J&J’s motions to transfer the cases to the District of New Jersey where its four earlier filed cases against Abbott are pending. The Court found so, even though the actions pending in the D. N.J. involve the same patents, the same accused products and the same legal issues. Judge Robinson acknowledged that BSC need not have been a party to the earlier filed litigation for the “first-filed” rule to apply, however, in its discretion the prejudice to BSC should the action be transferred was too great. The New Jersey court has yet to set a trial date where the Delaware cases have a trial date and schedule in place so BSC will be able to proceed without delay on its claims. Judge Robinson found J&J’s argument on the risk of inconsistent rulings on the legal issues to be “entirely speculative” at this time and therefore not persuasive for transfer. Applying the remainder of the Jumara factors, the Court found that the cases should remain in Delaware.

And the battle rages on…

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