Supreme Court Review 2017/2018 TERM
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2017
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Issue:  Defense of Laches in Patent Cases

SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products

15-927

QUESTION(S) PRESENTED

In Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014), the Court held that the defense of laches cannot be used to shorten the three-year copyright limitations period set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 507(b), observing that “we have never applied laches to bar in their entirety claims for discrete wrongs occurring within a federally prescribed limitations period.” 134 S. Ct. at 1974. In reaching its decision, the Court noted that the Federal Circuit follows a contrary rule in the patent setting, applying laches to bar infringement claims accruing within the six-year limitations period prescribed in 35 U.S.C. § 286, but stated: “[w]e have not had occasion to review the Federal Circuit’s position.” Petrella, 134 S. Ct. at 1974 n.15 (discussing A.C. Aukerman Co. v. R.L. Chaides Constr. Co., 960 F.2d 1020 (Fed. Cir. 1992) (en banc)).

Following Petrella, the Federal Circuit convened en banc in this matter to consider the conflict between Petrella and Aukerman. All judges of the court agreed that there is “no substantive distinction material to the Petrella analysis” between the copyright and patent limitations periods. Pet. App. 18a. Nevertheless, in a 6-5 decision, the court reaffirmed its position in Aukerman and held that laches may be used to bar patent infringement claims accruing within the six-year limitations period.

The question presented is:
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.

DECISION

Decided March 21, 2017 HOLDING

Laches cannot be invoked as a defense against a claim for damages brought within §286’s 6-year limitations period.

Agree image Justice Kagan
Agree Kagan
Author image Justice Alito
Author Alito
Agree image Justice Ginsburg
Agree Ginsburg
Agree image Justice Kennedy
Agree Kennedy
Agree image Chief Justice Roberts
Agree Roberts
Agree image Justice Thomas
Agree Thomas
Dissent Author image Justice Breyer
Dissent Author Breyer
Agree image Justice Sotomayor
Agree Sotomayor
Recused image Justice Gorsuch
Recused Gorsuch

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Text of Opinion
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ORAL ARGUMENT

Argued November 1, 2016

Appearences
On Behalf of Petitioner SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag, et al.
Martin J. Black, Esq.
On Behalf of Respondent First Quality Baby Products, LLC, et al.
Seth P. Waxman, Esq.
Transcript
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Audio
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Merit Briefs
Brief for Petitioner (pdf download)
Brief for Respondents (pdf download)
Reply Brief of Petitioner (pdf download)
Amicus Curiae Briefs
Brief for American Intellectual Property Law Association in Support of Neither Party (pdf download)
Brief for Art+Com Innovationpool GmbH in Support of Petitioner (pdf download)
Brief for Askeladden LLC in Support of Respondents (pdf download)
Brief for Briggs & Stratton Corporation, Rockwell Automation Inc, and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce in Support of Respondents (pdf download)
Brief for Chicago Intellectual Property Law Association in Support of Neither Party (pdf download)
Brief for Cook Medical LLC in Support of Respondents (pdf download)
Brief for Dell, et al in Support of Respondents (pdf download)
Brief for Intellectual Property Owners Association in Support of Neither Party (pdf download)
Brief for Johnson & Johnson and Cordis Corporation in Support of Respondent (pdf download)
Brief for Law Professors in Support of Petitioner (pdf download)
Brief for Medinol Ltd in Support of Petitioner (pdf download)
Brief for New York Intellectual Property Law Association in Support of Neither Party (pdf download)
Brief for Roche Molecular Systems, Inc in Support of Respondents and Urging Affirmance (pdf download)
Brief for the American Bar Association in Support of Petitioner (pdf download)
Brief for Universal Remote Control, Inc in Support of Respondent (pdf download)
Brief for Washington Legal Foundation in Support of Respondent (pdf download)
Brief of the Electric Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge in Support of Respondents (pdf download)

PROCEEDING BELOW

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Decided September 18, 2015
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