Wait For It: "Unreasonable Delay" in Bringing Suit is No Longer a Defense in Patent Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 7-1 ruling in SCA Hygiene that eliminated the common-law defense of laches in patent infringement cases. The Supreme Court reasoned that laches is a “gap-filling doctrine” that does not apply to patent law because a federal statute already prevents patent owners from collecting damages for any infringement occurring six or more years before they filed an infringement suit.

While laches was rarely successful as a patent defense, companies should be mindful of how SCA Hygiene might incentivize patent owners to wait longer before filing lawsuits and the effect this might have on planning for litigation.

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