Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: October 1, 2013
  • Case #: 12-1315
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 695 F.3d 946 (9th Cir. 2012)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the nonstatutory defense of laches is available without restriction to bar all remedies for civil copyright claims filed within the three-year statute of limitations prescribed by Congress, 17 U.S.C. § 507(b).

In 1991, Petitioner renewed the copyright to a screenplay. Respondent continued to market the film and Petitioner sued for copyright infringement in 2009. The three-year limitations period barred Petitioner from recovering damages for acts of infringement before 2006, but did not bar recovery of damages and injunctive relief for acts of infringement that occurred post-2006. The district court granted summary judgment for Respondent holding that the nonstatutory defense of laches entirely barred Petitioner's suit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, based on binding circuit precedent, and denied rehearing en banc.

The Federal Courts of Appeals are divided over whether the defense of laches can bar civil copyright claims brought within the statute of limitations, and in what circumstances an equitable solution can be applied. Only the Ninth Circuit applies laches without restriction, and in fact presumes it in some cases. The circuit split threatens to breed forum shopping by making particular remedies available in some circuits but not in others. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the nonstatutory defense of laches is available without restriction to bar all remedies for civil copyright claims filed within the three-year statute of limitations prescribed by Congress, 17 U.S.C. § 507(b).

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