SCA Hygiene Prods. Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Prods., LLC

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Patents
  • Date Filed: May 2, 2016
  • Case #: 15-927
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 807 F.3d 1311 (Fed. Cir. 2015)
  • Full Text Opinion

“Whether and to what extent the defense of laches may bar a claim for patent infringement brought within the Patent Act’s six-year statutory limitations period, 35 U.S.C. § 286?”

Petitioner is a patent holder for a design of protective underwear. Respondent began emulating the design and was asked to stop by Petitioner. Respondent argued that Petitioner’s patent was invalid because of a previously issued patent. Before filing suit, Petitioner sought a reexamination of its patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The PTO took three years to validate the Petitioner’s original patent. Two years and four months after the end of the reexamination and six years and eleven months after Petitioner’s first correspondence with Respondent, Petitioner then filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment for Respondent on the defense of laches and estoppel. Petitioner appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. While the case was still pending, the Court decided Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., which held that the defense of laches cannot preclude an award of damages for copyright infringement during the Copyright Act’s three-year period of limitation. Petitioner argued that a genuine link existed between the decision under the Copyright Act in Petrella and their current case under the Patent Act. The Federal Circuit reversed in part as to the estoppel defense, but affirmed in part as to the defense of laches. Petitioner first argues that the Patent Act makes no mention of the laches defense and so the Court should go no further in its interpretation of the statute. Second, Congress enacted a six-year uniform period of limitations, which the Court may not circumvent. Third, the Federal Circuit’s decision conflicts with the Court’s decision in Petrella. Lastly, Petitioner argues that the Federal Circuit’s “unitary claim” presumption is inconsistent with the Court’s separate-accrual rule.

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