March 2017: Laches in Patent Infringement Cases

“Laches” is an equitable defense under the law which a defendant may assert to block a plaintiff from pursing a legal claim when the plaintiff did not bring the claim in a reasonable period of time.  In the case of SCA Hygiene Products AB et al. v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “laches cannot be interposed as a defense against damages where the infringement occurred within the period prescribed by [the patent statute]”.  In the case of patent infringement actions, 35 U.S.C. § 286 limits the plaintiff’s right to only recover damages to the period of six years before the complaint was filed.  Thus, laches may not be asserted as a defense by a defendant in a patent infringement case to prevent the plaintiff from seeking recovery of damages from the defendant for a shorter period than the that full six year period.

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