The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that laches is not a defense in the majority of patent cases. Justice Alito, writing for the 7-1 majority, found the application of laches to patent disputes incompatible with the six-year statute of limitations found in 35 U.S.C. § 286.
The decision arose out of a dispute between two competitors in the market for adult incontinence products. In October 2003, SCA Hygiene sent an infringement notice letter to its competitor, First Quality; it filed suit against First Quality nearly seven years later, in August 2010. First Quality then moved for summary judgment, arguing that laches barred SCA Hygiene’s claim. The District Court and the Federal Circuit both agreed: because SCA had waited over six years before filing suit, its case was barred by laches and should be dismissed. Continue Reading