Laches No Longer a Defense to Patent Infringement

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-1 decision reversed an en banc Federal Circuit decision and held that an accused patent infringer cannot invoke laches as a defense to a patent infringement suit brought within the six-year limitations period of 35 U.S.C. § 286.  Laches is an equitable doctrine by which, prior to the Supreme Court’ decision, a court could limit and/or deny damages to a patent owner who unreasonably and prejudicially delayed in commencing suit for patent infringement.  The Supreme Court concluded that a federal court cannot use laches to “overrule Congress’ judgment” under Section 286 that a patentee may recover damages for infringement committed within six years of the filing of a patent infringement suit.  SCA Hygiene Prods. Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Prods., LLC, No. 15-927, __ U.S. __, 137 S.Ct. 954, 2017 WL 1050978 (March 21, 2017).