Mary Pat Thynge: Deposition Discovery Again Warrants Addition of Late Inequitable-Conduct Claim

In a patent infringement action, Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge recently granted defendant SPI Pharma, Inc.’s (“SPI”) motion to amend their answer despite the deadline for amending pleadings having passed in May 2007. Roquette Frère v. SPI Pharma, Inc., C.A. No. 06-540-GMS (D. Del. May 21, 2009). SPI’s motion was hotly contested by plaintiff Roquette Frères (“Roquette”), despite Roquette amending their complaint twice (once after the deadline to do so had passed). Id. at 1. SPI initially responded to Roquette’s second amended complaint on July 13, 2007, but filed the present motion to amend on December 31, 2007, in order to include a defense and counterclaim based on inequitable conduct. Id. at 2. After deposing the inventors of the patent-in-issue in November 2007, testimony was elicited allegedly supporting a claim that “Roquette and/or its agents or representatives knowingly and intentionally misled the PTO regarding the content of prior art described in the . . . patent specification, and withheld material information.” Id. at 2-3. Magistrate Judge Thynge noted that “prejudice to the non-moving party is the ‘touchstone for the denial of an amendment.’” Id. at 12. However, Roquette claimed they would be prejudiced only because they “would have to address a new issue and rework its case, thereby incurring additional costs.” Id. When disregarding Roquette’s argument, Magistrate Judge Thynge stated that the inventors’ knowledge regarding the patent specification and their representations to the PTO were “within the control of Roquette.” Id. Moreover, SPI’s motion to amend was filed four months before the close of discovery and before a trial had been scheduled. Finally, Roquette failed to present evidence that SPI brought the motion in bad faith or that amendment would be futile. Roquette focused only on their disagreement with the merits of the inequitable conduct allegations, while failing to point to deliberate conduct or SPI’s failure to allege facts that could support a finding in its favor. Id.

Roquette Frère v. SPI Pharma, Inc., C.A. No. 06-540-GMS (D. Del. May 21, 2009)

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