News Releases

Supreme Court Strikes Down Equitable Defense of Laches in Patent Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 22, 2017 – In a 7-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion March 21, 2017, in SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, No. 15-927, 580 U.S. ___ (2017). In an examination of the ruling, Baker Botts Intellectual Property (IP) lawyers detail this highly anticipated decision and its impact on patent law. Read the full report

The Court’s decision reversed an en banc panel of the Federal Circuit and held that laches, the equitable doctrine that can limit the recovery of damages after an unreasonable delay, cannot be invoked as a defense against a claim for patent infringement damages brought within the 6-year limitations period prescribed by 35 U.S.C. § 286. It came in the wake of the Court’s decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. ___ (2014), where the high court held that laches no longer applied in a copyright context. 

Baker Botts IP lawyers explain in their report that the Court “relied heavily on Petrella and determined that the Court’s reasoning from that case easily fit § 286 of the Patent Act. Slip. op. at 5.” Similar to Petrella, where the Court was unwilling to undermine the Copyright Act’s three year limitation, the Court held that § 286 “represents a judgment by Congress that a patentee may recover damages for any infringement committed within six years of the filing of the claim.” Id. at 6. Recalling from Petralla that laches was meant to be “gap-filling” and not “legislation-overriding,” the Court reiterated that “courts are not at liberty to jettison Congress’ judgment on the timeliness of suit.” Id. at 4-5. 

Baker Botts’ Intellectual Property group closely monitors changes to the law and rules of practice to relay important implications the developments have on practitioners and IP owners alike. The practice maintains an “Intellectual Property Cases to Watch,” providing an outlook on the key issues impacting the industry. 

With over 180 IP lawyers and patent professionals, holding over 200 technical degrees, Baker Botts has an incredibly deep bench of practitioners with a wealth of experience in patent litigation, patent prosecution and post-grant proceedings. Learn more about Baker Botts’ IP practice


Baker Botts is an international law firm of approximately 725 lawyers practicing throughout a network of 14 offices around the globe. Based on our experience and knowledge of our clients' industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in the energy and technology sectors. Since 1840, we have provided creative and effective legal solutions for our clients while demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to excellence. For more information, please visit

Read More