Patent declaratory judgment actions


Paul Sutton

It is quite common for US patent litigation to commence in the form of a DJ action, wherein a party seeks a judicial determination regarding the legal positions of the parties.

These actions are grounded in a legal standing to sue. Where declaratory judgment (DJ) litigation is appropriate, the result will be a legally binding adjudication that is preventive in nature. A party that believes itself to be under threat of legal action by another need not wait in a state of uncertainty until that other party decides to act.

Under US patent law, the relief available by bringing a DJ action is based upon statute, as opposed to equity. The outcome of such actions is characterised by the synonymous terms declaratory relief and declaratory ruling. A final judgment in a matter that goes through trial will be entered by the court in favor of the successful party.

The commencement of this type of action must not merely seek an advisory opinion from the court. Courts do not render such opinions in the absence of a genuine, justiciable controversy created by virtue of a threat of litigation. Advisory opinions, such as those rendered by counsel, do not serve to resolve controversies, whereas a judicial determination in a declaratory judgment action will provide legal certainty and a resolution of rights.

Patent DJ actions, declaratory judgment, patent litigation