By Matthew Hulse, Associate General Counsel, Law and Policy Group at Intel
Intel has joined a large coalition of companies in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the laches defense in patent cases in SCA Hygiene v. First Quality Baby Products. Intel, together with other companies, filed an amicus brief in the same case last year when the Federal Circuit considered it en banc and held laches may be used to bar patent infringement claims.
The laches defense may be raised when a patent owner sleeps on its rights and delays asserting its patent for an unreasonable and prejudicial amount of time. Technology companies rely on laches to protect themselves against assertions of patent infringement that have become far more difficult, expensive, and uncertain to defend as a result of unreasonable delay. Delay can be problematic because, for example, accused infringers frequently assert defenses that become more difficult to prove with the passage of time, and face increased difficulty in contesting damages over time, especially if they have become locked into the patented technology.
After the U.S. Supreme Court recently limited laches as a defense in copyright cases, it is reviewing that defense now for patent cases. Our amicus brief in SCA Hygiene argues the laches defense should be preserved and focuses on the current, compelling need for laches to protect technology companies from unreasonably delayed claims for patent infringement. To illustrate the practical importance of the laches defense, the brief includes case examples drawn from the experience of several companies, and provides empirical data about the role of non-practicing entities in bringing unreasonably delayed patent cases.