An International Guide to
Patent Case Management for Judges

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10.6.5 Statements of case (pleading)

Under the liberal federal pleading rules in the United States, patent infringement complaints typically provide a statement of ownership of the asserted patent(s), identify the accused infringer(s), provide a brief statement of alleged infringing acts, and (if applicable) provide a statement regarding the patent owner’s marking of a product with the patent number under 35 U.S.C. § 287 (which affects potential monetary damages). The fleshing out of the allegations typically occurs as fact discovery unfolds and PLRs dictate.150 After that early disclosure, the asserted claims and accused products may not be amended without leave of court for good cause.151

Like the plaintiff’s allegations of infringement, the defendant’s allegations of invalidity need not be pled with particularity. Defendants typically recite only that the patent is invalid and may identify sections of the Patent Act related to their invalidity allegations. Although this sort of notice-pleading has usually been held to satisfy the FRCP, in practice, it gives little notice to a patent holder about what grounds for invalidity a defendant will actually assert. Consequently, some district judges require that defendants disclose the specific grounds on which they assert invalidity early in a case, just as they require specific infringement contentions from a patent owner. Courts can require defendants to identify specific prior art references they intend to assert as invalidating and to disclose invalidity claims based on written description, indefiniteness or enablement.152 Following a specified period for making these disclosures, they may be amended only upon a showing of good cause.153

With the exception of inequitable conduct, unenforceability allegations need not be pled with particularity. By contrast, inequitable conduct is seen as a species of fraud and must therefore be pled with particularity.154 Inequitable conduct must rest on specific allegations of intentional, material omissions or misrepresentations by the patentee during the application process for a patent.

The defendant typically asserts an array of counterclaims. In nearly every case, it seeks a declaratory judgment that the asserted patents are not infringed, invalid, and/or unenforceable. The defendant may also assert infringement of its own patents in a counterclaim. Under FRCP 13(a), a counterclaim is compulsory if it arises out of the same transaction or occurrence as the opposing party’s claim. A counterclaim for infringement is compulsory in an action for declaration of noninfringement. Similarly, counterclaims for declaratory judgment of noninfringement or invalidity are compulsory with respect to a claim of infringement.