Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion, SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, in which it held that laches cannot be used as a defense to a claim of patent infringement. The opinion had been anticipated ever since the Court’s decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. ___ (2014) struck down the defense in copyright cases, using reasoning that appeared to apply to all federal actions involving causes of action subject to statutes of limitations.
Last week, a sharply divided Federal Circuit, acting en banc (6-5), decided SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC to the delight of accused infringers. Laches remains a defense to damage claims in patent infringement cases, even for damages sustained within six years before filing suit, despite the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., which eliminated that defense for damage claims in copyright cases. The Federal Circuit also overruled prior precedent and held that laches may bar prospective injunctive relief. As a result, patent owners should put alleged infringers on notice and not wait to pursue their claims.
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