Laches, a judicially created defense based on the plaintiff’s delay and prejudice to the defendant, is a proper defense to the recovery of damages in a patent infringement suit, even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that laches does not apply in copyright infringement cases.
A divided en banc Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held in SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products (September 18, 2015) 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 16621 that Congress specifically provided for a laches defense in the Patent Act, unlike the Copyright Act.
SCA owned a patent for adult incontinence devices; First Quality was a competitor. In 2003, SCA sent First Quality a letter stating that it believed First Quality’s products infringed SCA’s patent. First Quality replied that SCA’s patent was invalid based on a prior art patent. In 2004, SCA filed a petition for reexamination of its patent in the Patent and Trademark Office, citing the prior art patent. In 2007, the PTO upheld SCA’s patent. SCA had not informed First Quality of the reexamination because the reexamination proceedings were public, but First Quality believed that SCA had dropped its accusation in response to First Quality’s letter. During this time, First Quality had made significant investments in its business. SCA knew First Quality was expanding its business, but did not inform First Quality of the reexamination decision. In 2010, seven years after its last communication with First Quality, SCA sued First Quality for patent infringement.