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Animal Care Systems, Inc. v. Hydropac/Lab Products, Inc.

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

January 10, 2014

ANIMAL CARE SYSTEMS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
HYDROPAC/LAB PRODUCTS, INC., Defendant. and HYDROPAC/LAB PRODUCTS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ANIMAL CARE SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, MOTIONS TO CONSOLIDATE CASES AND DENYING MOTIONS TO DISMISS

MARCIA S. KRIEGER, Chief Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to Hydropac/Lab Products, Inc.'s ("Hydropac") Motion to Consolidate Cases and Align Parties (# 15 in 13-cv-143 and # 15 in 13-cv-415), Animal Care System, Inc.'s ("Animal Care") responses, and Hydropac's replies; and Animal Care's Motion to Dismiss (# 23 in 13-cv-143 and # 19 in 13-cv-415), Hydopac's responses, and Animal Care's replies.

A. Pertinent Procedural History

Hydropac commenced this action against Animal Care in the United States Court for the District of Delaware on November 20, 2012. Hydropac alleged that Animal Care was infringing on various patents. Citing to its lack of sales in Delaware, Animal Care responded with a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to Transfer venue of the case to Colorado.

While Animal Care's Motion to Dismiss or to Transfer was pending in the Delaware action, Animal Care commenced Case No. 13-cv-143 against Hydropac in this Court. Animal care requests declaratory judgments that its products do not infringe on Hydropac's patents and that Hydropac's patents are invalid.

Ultimately, the parties agreed that the Delaware action should be transferred to Colorado, and the Delaware court granted their stipulated motion to transfer venue. The transferred case was given Case No. 13-cv-415 and assigned to the undersigned.

B. Motion to Consolidate and Align Parties

Hydropac moves to consolidate the two actions into a single case. Animal Care concurs in that request. One would think that upon such agreement that the cases would be consolidated into the earliest filed case before this Court (as is the usual practice). However, the parties cannot agree as to that.

Hydropac requests that the consolidation be done in such a way "such that [Hydropac] is the named Plaintiff/Counterclaim-Defendant in the consolidated action." Hydropac argues that the "primary purpose" of this litigation is the adjudication of its infringement claims, and thus, it is the "natural plaintiff, " and points out that it was the first to commence suit (albeit in Delaware). Citing Plumtree Software, Inc. v. Datamize, LLC, 2003 WL 25841157 (N.D. Ca. Oct. 6, 2003). Animal Care argues that it should be the plaintiff in the consolidated case because it is the nominal plaintiff in the earliest-filed case in this Court. The parties' subsequent briefing, in excess of 50 pages, addresses which entity should be the plaintiff in the consolidated action.

The Court agrees with the parties that consolidation is appropriate, but is mystified by the remaining portion of the parties' dispute. Essentially, the parties each want to be designated as the plaintiff and object to being designated as the defendant. Neither party identifies any legal right that is impacted by designation as a "plaintiff" as compared to a "defendant, " and neither offers any practical consideration that is impacted by the designations.

The Court has reviewed the Plumtree decision, to which the parties refer.[1] It articulates several considerations that justified realignment of parties in that case, including the burden of proof, the "logical presentation of the evidence at trial, " the need for consistency with local patent rules, and the desire to discourage forum-shopping. 2003 WL 25841157 at * 3-5. However, such concerns are not applicable here.

Arguably, alignment of parties should follow the burden of proof with the party bearing the burden being the But these actions include claims as to which both parties have burdens of proof: Hydropac must prove its claims that Animal Care infringed its patents, Applied Medical Resources Corp. v. U.S. Surgical Corp., 448 F.3d 1324, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2006), and Animal Care must prove its claims that Hydropac's patents are invalid, Pfizer, Inc. v. Apotex, Inc., 480 F.3d 1348, 1359 (Fed. Cir. 2007).[2] Given that both parties have proof obligations, there is no particular logic that places one in a more "natural" position as plaintiff.

Thus, the Court grants, in part, Hydropac's motion to consolidate, but declines to undertake any realignment of the parties or otherwise disrupt the current status of the parties in their respective cases. Future filings in this case will bear both captions, in the same form as this Order does, but for ease of docket administration, the parties and the Clerk of the Court shall only record those filings in Case No. 13-cv-143; the docket for Case No. 13-cv-415 shall merely direct the reader to the docket of Case No. 13-cv-143 for all further proceedings in both ...


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