Laches Defense in Patent Cases

Justin Farooq

More than 30 companies, including Google, Intel Corp. and Visa, have filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to end laches as a defense in patent cases.[1]  The case in question is SCA Hygiene Products AB et al. v. First Quality Baby Products LLC et al.  SCA argues that “because Section 286 of the Patent Act of 1952 sets a six-year statute of limitations for patent infringement claims, First Quality Baby Products LLC is wrong to claim that laches, which bars legal remedies when a plaintiff is found to have unreasonably delayed bringing a suit, can be utilized in the instant case.”[2]  This matter was settled regarding copyright in 2014 by Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. et al.[3]  The Supreme Court held there that laches cannot be used as a defense in copyright cases.[4]  The justices reasoned in Petrella that since Congress established that window, laches may not be used to bar claims filed within that period.  SCA argues that, since Section 286 of the Patent Act of 1952 contains a similar time limits provision, laches should also not be used in patent matters.[5]

First Quality Baby Products argues that Congress’ intent was different in enacting the Copyright Act and Patent Act, and further they argue that while copyright plaintiffs must establish that the alleged infringer copied the plaintiff’s work, patents can be infringed without the infringer’s realization.[6]  Most courts have upheld laches as a defense in patent cases but not copyright cases.[7]  It is now time for the Supreme Court to decide this issue once and for all.    


[1] Kevin Penton, Supreme Court Urged To End Laches Defense In Patent Cases, Law 360, (October 19, 2016, 4:13 PM).

[2] Id.  See also, 35 U.S.C.A. § 286.

[3] See Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1962, 1970 (2014).

[4] Id.

[5] Penton, supra note 1.

[6] Id.

[7] Bill Donahue, High Court Gives ‘Raging Bull’ Copyright Suit 1 More Round, Law 360, (May 19, 2014, 10:17 AM).