Defense attorneys often rely on the legal defense of laches when faced with a claim of patent infringement. This defense bars recovery when a party claims legal injury but unreasonably delays in pursuing the claim in a way that prejudices the opposing party. The laches defense has come under close examination in the SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, Inc. case. 1
The facts giving rise to the case began when SCA, the patent holder, suggested in a 2003 letter to First Quality, its competitor in the adult incontinence market, that First Quality products were infringing on one of SCA’s patents. After exchanging letters for several years, SCA filed suit in 2010, alleging patent infringement. The District Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment primarily under laches grounds.
Then, in a ruling previously discussed on this blog, a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of laches as a defense to patent infringement. This came despite the Supreme Court’s 2014 holding in Patrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. 2 that laches cannot be invoked to bar a claim for copyright infringement. In light of the Patrella ruling, the Federal Circuit vacated its SCA Hygiene Products ruling on December 30, 2014, ordering an en banc hearing of the court, meaning Continue reading →
Could a case on the boxing classic Raging Bull lead to a patent litigation prizefight of sorts? In an en banc hearing ordered on December 30, 2014, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appellate court with special jurisdiction over patents and trademarks, will decide whether the Supreme Court’s essential elimination of a litigation defense involving copyright cases should also apply in patent cases.
The defense in question is the doctrine of laches. Laches is an equitable defense that bars recovery when a party claims it has been legally injured, but unreasonably delays pursuing any legal action in a way that prejudices the opposing party. The defense has been asserted in many kinds of cases, including contract, tort, copyright, and patent cases.
A Supreme Court case involving a copyright and the laches defense, Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014), has triggered a ripple effect that may reach into patent law. In that case, Paula Petrella, daughter of the co-author of the screenplay that evolved into Raging Bull, alleged copyright infringement against MGM. MGM countered that Petrella delayed too long in bringing the action, as she had renewed the copyright in 1991 and first threatened suit in 1998. However, the Supreme Court rejected MGM’s position and held that Continue reading →