Pleadings in Federal Court Cases


Pleadings in Federal Court Cases

Attorneys Practicing Intellectual Property Litigation in Federal Court

A significant percentage of intellectual property litigation occurs in federal court, as copyrights, trademarks, and patents are all created and controlled by federal law.  In addition, many intellectual property disputes that are based on state law also take place in federal court if they contain a federal issue or they meet the requirements of diversity jurisdiction—meaning that the parties are from different states and an amount in controversy exists of more than $75,000.

Federal litigation is subject to many procedural and substantive rules that take years of study and experience to fully master.  For this reason, it is highly advisable for all parties involved in legal disputes related to intellectual property to discuss their options with an experienced intellectual property attorney.

Pleadings in a Federal Intellectual Property Case

Intellectual property litigation begins with the parties to the lawsuit filing various pleadings. Fundamentally, pleadings are statements of fact and law  that outline each party’s position with regard to the dispute.  These filings serve to initiate a formal legal action and also give each party notice about the other side’s intentions regarding the dispute.

The Complaint

The complaint is a pleading that initiates a lawsuit.  It sets out the plaintiff’s version of what occurred and what types of damages are being sought.  For example, in an intellectual property lawsuit based on copyright infringement, the complaint would describe in detail the copyright that the plaintiff holds, the way in which the plaintiff’s rights were infringed upon, and the damages the plaintiff is seeking.

The Answer

The defendant in an IP lawsuit must file an answer or other responsive pleading within 21 days of being served.  The answer gives the defendant an opportunity to respond to the facts that were alleged in the complaint.  Typically, the answer will include denials and admissions to specific facts alleged by the plaintiff and can plead additional facts that, if true, justify the acts of the defendant.  In addition, the answer may state that the defendant lacks sufficient knowledge regarding the allegations in the complaint to admit or deny them.  Importantly, if the defendant is going to raise any legal defenses, they must be raised in the answer.  If they are not, the defendant may be prohibited from raising such defenses later in the case.


At this point, the defendant may file a counterclaim which is basically a second complaint.  In the event of a counterclaim, both parties are plaintiffs – and defendants – in the case.

The Importance of the Pleading Phase

The complaint is not simply a recitation of facts—it is an opportunity to state your case in an effective and thorough way.  The content within your complaint can frame the way that the court views your case.  For this reason, a well-written complaint can make it more likely that a case is resolved in favor of the plaintiff, while a poorly-written complaint can lead to motions to dismiss and other wasted time.

Similarly, the answer to the complaint is of critical importance to the potential success of the defendant’s position in intellectual property litigation.  For example, any legal defenses that will be raised are required to be raised in the answer.  If they are not, they can be barred later.  Even if the defendant is not raising a legal defense, it is important to take care when admitting, denying, or claiming that you do not have enough information to either admit or deny the statements made in the complaint. Making an error could have a significant impact on the outcome of your case.

Finally, it is critical to keep in mind that some intellectual property cases are decided at the pleadings stage.  For example, if a defendant fails to file a timely answer, it usually results in a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.  Similarly, if a complaint fails to state a claim under which relief can be sought, a defendant may be able to successfully file a motion for the entire case to be dismissed.

Because of the importance of well-crafted and accurate pleadings, it is extremely important for anyone involved in intellectual property litigation to retain an experienced intellectual property attorney as soon as possible.

Contact Mandour & Associates to Discuss Your Intellectual Property Case Today

It is important for anyone with a legal dispute related to a trademark, copyright, patent, trade secret, or other form of intellectual property right to retain an attorney familiar with IP litigation.  At Mandour & Associates, we work on all types of legal issues related to intellectual property.  For a consultation about your legal matter, please contact us via our contact form to as soon as possible.

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