Delaware Court Dismisses “Anticipatory” First-Filed Declaratory Judgment Action

The Delaware District Court dismissed a declaratory judgment action in favor of a later-filed patent infringement suit on the same patent. The ruling provides a roadmap for patent owners to pursue a settlement without the danger of an infringer being able to win a race to the courthouse and file suit in a forum of its choosing.

In Woodbolt Distribution, LLC v. Natural Alternatives Int’l, Inc., Civil Action No. 11-1266-GMS, 2013 U.S. Dist. Lexis 8751 (D. Del. Jan. 23, 2013), Woodbolt, which sells human dietary supplements containing beta-alanine, filed a declaratory judgment action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware asking that Court to rule that a patent owned by Natural Alternatives International, Inc. was not infringed or invalid. Just minutes after Woodbolt filed its Delaware case, Natural Alternatives sued Woodbolt and two of its contract manufacturers for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Natural Alternatives then moved to dismiss the Delaware action or, in the alternative, transfer the case to Texas.

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