Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What is a "declaratory judgment"?

In earlier posts, I quickly mentioned declaratory judgments. A declaratory judgment is an action in state or federal court where a plaintiff requests determination of the rights of parties, either before a dispute arises or before a lawsuit. For instance, a defendant in patent or trademark litigation often counterclaims for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and/or invalidity. "DJ" actions can also arise from contract disputes, when two or more parties disagree on the meaning of a contract, and they seek court intervention to resolve the dispute before a party breaches the contract.

Basically, DJ actions are available whenever parties are or will be involved in a civil dispute, they have a bona fide controversy, and a declaratory judgment would resolve the uncertainty. A court will not simply adjudicate a dispute unless there are rights at stake. In other words, if you have a disagreement with a friend, family member or colleague about something trivial, you cannot file a DJ action.

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