On March 21, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products that laches is not a defense to a damages claim when the Patent Act’s six-year statute of limitations has yet to expire. This decision aligns with the Court’s ruling in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., 572 U.S. ___ (2014), in which the Court determined that laches cannot be invoked as a defense to bar relief in copyright disputes so long as the claim is filed within the Copyright Act’s three-year statute of limitations.
SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag and SCA Personal Care Inc. (SCA) first notified First Quality Baby Products LLC (First Quality) in 2003 that its adult diapers infringed SCA’s patented technology. After several years of invalidity proceedings, in 2010 SCA sued Quality First in the United States Court for the Western District of Kentucky. First Quality prevailed on summary judgment on the basis of laches and equitable estoppel, and SCA appealed to the Federal Circuit. While SCA’s appeal was pending, the Supreme Court issued the Petrella decision. However, based on precedent set before the enactment of the Patent Act, the Federal Circuit ruled that laches could still be asserted for claims involving patents when the statute of limitations had yet to expire under 35 U.S.C. § 286. Continue Reading