The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia H. Rambo
This case arises out of a dispute over whether some of Plaintiff QRG, Ltd.'s ("QRG") products infringe Defendant Nartron Corporation's ("Nartron") patents. QRG seeks a declaratory judgment that its QProx, QTouch, QSlide, QWheel, QMatrix, and QField product lines do not violate Nartron's patents (U.S. patents: 4,731,548; 4,758,735; 4,831,279; 5,087,825; 5,796,183 ("patents")). Nartron has filed an answer to QRG's amended declaratory judgment complaint and asserted a counterclaim that QRG's QProx product line infringes Nartron's 4,758,735 patent ("'735 patent"). Before the court is QRG's motion to strike that counterclaim (Doc. 34) based on inexcusable delay, prejudice, bad faith, and futility. Nartron asserts that QRG fails to articulate any prejudice and that Nartron's right to answer QRG's amended complaint includes the right to assert any counterclaims that it may have. The court finds that any prejudice to QRG will be minimal and that permitting Nartron to assert its counterclaim here is in the interests of justice. Accordingly, the court will deny QRG's motion to strike Nartron's counterclaim.
The facts relevant to the court's instant inquiry are as follows.*fn1 On April 13, 2006, QRG filed a declaratory judgment suit against Nartron in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The complaint sought a declaration that QRG's form QProx product line and other "capacitive touch sensor products and related components" did not infringe Nartron's patents.
On May 8, 2006, Nartron filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Western District of Pennsylvania granted limited discovery related to the issue of personal jurisdiction, with a deadline of May 30, 2006. On September 7, 2006, the court denied Nartron's motion to dismiss and ordered the case transferred to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
On October 6, 2006, Nartron filed its answer, which did not include any counterclaims. On November 1, 2006, Nartron filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and, in the alternative, for failure to state a claim. On March 2, 2007, the court granted QRG an opportunity to amend the complaint with respect to its allegations regarding the "capacitive touch sensor products and related components," deferred ruling with respect to that issue,*fn2 and denied Nartron's motion to dismiss in all other respects. (Doc. 30.) In a separate order on March 2, 2007, the court also extended the discovery and other case management deadlines by thirty days. (Doc. 31.)
QRG subsequently filed an amended complaint on March 8, 2007, which identified QRG's QTouch, QSlide, QWheel, QMatrix, and QField, in addition to QProx, product lines as the specific products at issue in the declaratory judgment action. On March 19, 2007, Nartron timely filed its answer to the amended complaint, which included a counterclaim that QRG's QProx product line infringed Nartron's '735 patent. Fact discovery closed on March 30, 2007.
In related litigation, on August 25, 2006, Nartron filed a declaratory judgment complaint against QRG in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which similarly asserted that QRG infringed, or was prepared to infringe, Nartron's '735 patent. QRG subsequently filed a motion to dismiss that complaint, which the Michigan district court granted on February 12, 2007. That court dismissed Nartron's complaint, in relevant part, based on the "first-filed" rule, after comparing that case to the case before this court. The Michigan district court reasoned that "[a]lthough the Pennsylvania action is more comprehensive in that it involves more patents, both actions call into question the '735 patent and Nartron's rights thereunder." Nartron Corp. v. Quantum Research Group, Ltd., 473 F. Supp. 2d 790, 796 (E.D. Mich. 2007). The court further considered the cases to "cover the same ground and hinge on the same legal and factual determinations." Id.
In the instant matter, QRG filed a motion to strike Nartron's counterclaim on March 23, 2007. The issues have been briefed and the matter is ripe for disposition.
II. Legal Standard -- Motion to Strike
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) provides that a court "may order stricken from any pleading any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f).
Pleading amendments are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, which provides in part:
A party may amend the party's pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served, or if the pleading is one to which no responsive pleading is permitted and the action has not been placed upon the trial calendar, the party may so amend it at any time within 20 days after it is served. Otherwise a party may amend the party's pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires. A party shall plead in response to an amended pleading within the time remaining for response ...