…but can only collect damages for six years prior to filing suit.
In a stunning upset of years of jurisprudence (Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, prior patent act), the U.S. Supreme Court determined that laches (an equitable remedy) cannot be applied within the “statute of limitations” period of six years (a legal remedy for damages). Laches is an equitable doctrine that is designed to deter rights owners from “sitting on their rights.” So if someone takes no action for a long time, the doctrine of laches can stop that someone from bringing an action many years later because they simply waited too long. This decision pretty much obliterates laches as a defense against a claim for patent infringement.
The case at issue is SCA Hygeine Products Akteibolag v. First Quality Baby Products, decided March 21, 2017. SCA makes adult incontinence products (adult diapers). It has U.S. Patent 6,375,646. In 2003, SCA notified First Quality that it was infringing the SCA patent. First Quality had its own earlier patent (U.S. Patent 5,415,649). First Quality replied by stating that its patent invalidated the SCA patent and, therefore, there was no infringement. SCA did not further respond and First Quality continued to develop and market its products. Continue Reading