Generally speaking, patent owners in California are expected to understand the parameters involved with filing an infringement claim on time. SCA Hygiene’s lawsuit against First Quality Baby Products over adult diapers underscores the importance of timeliness when attempting to protect a patent from infringement. According to the decision levied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a viable defense for the accused infringer may be the legal doctrine of laches.
Laches is used to refer to an unreasonable amount of time passing before someone pursues their rights or takes action. In an intellectual property context, the legal doctrine basically prohibits patent holders from waiting an extended period of time after they first learn of the potential infringement. If a patent holder waits to file a patent infringement several years following the initial discovery, after the infringer has already invested substantial time and resources, the alleged infringer may be successful with making their defense based on the laches doctrine.
In order to successfully use the laches doctrine as a defense, lawyers may be required to prove that the patent owner unreasonably and inexcusably delayed filing the infringement claim. Legal counsel must also prove that the party accused of infringement was materially prejudiced by the delay. Although laches has been the precedent in theses cases for decades, the Supreme Court recently decided that the defense may not qualify in copyright infringement cases that fall under the jurisdiction of the Copyright Act.
Intellectual property can be a valuable asset for business owners. An attorney who has experience in patent infringement litigation might be of assistance to those who believe that their property is being misappropriated by a competitor.