Patent Law

ABA urges Supreme Court to apply ruling limiting laches defense to patent cases

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The ABA has filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to apply to patent cases a 2014 copyright ruling limiting the laches defense.

The brief filed on July 22 says the doctrine of laches—which allows the dismissal of suits that are unreasonably delayed—generally should not bar patent claims during the six-year damages limitations period. A press release is here and the brief is here (PDF).

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Inc. that laches doesn’t bar money damages for past infringement in copyright cases that are filed within the three-year deadline.

The ABA brief says the Petrella copyright decision should also apply to patent cases. “This court should hold that the doctrine of patent laches cannot be applied to bar pre-suit legal damages in patent cases during the statutory six-year damages period,” the brief says.

Laches should be available in patent cases only in in extraordinary circumstances, and only to prevent injunctive and other prospective equitable relief, according to the ABA brief.

A contrary ruling that allows the doctrine of laches to bar damages would “continue to encourage rushed, premature filings, and discourage non-litigation resolutions such as settlement,” the ABA brief says.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit only partly applied Petrella last year in its 6-5 decision in the case, SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products.

Related articles: “SCOTUS to mull Federal Circuit refusal to apply top court’s copyright laches ruling in patent case”

ABA Journal: “Tug-of-war over interpretations of patent law continues between Federal Circuit and SCOTUS”

ABA Journal: ” ‘Raging Bull’ decision could rouse patent holders to sue decades after alleged infringement”

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