Inventors in New Jersey may be interested to learn of a decision by the United States Supreme Court regarding patents. In a ruling that adhered to the reasoning of a 2014 decision that eliminated laches in copyright suits, the court decided that the doctrine of needless delay does not apply to patents. The court determined that the statute of limitations established by Congress to restrict the amount of time for which plaintiffs may collect financial damages prevented judges from being able to authorize the older power of laches.
The decision permits patent holders to use more time to determine if a competitor’s products are successful before filing an infringement lawsuit to obtain compensation equal to six years’ worth of royalties. One judge in the majority stated that due to the separation-of-powers doctrine, the courts are compelled to concede to Congress. When a statute of limitations is established by Congress, it addresses timeliness and sets a rule for deciding if a claim is timely enough.
A dissenting judge stated that according to the reasoning of the majority, after verifying the success of the target company’s product, the patent holder can pursue damage for the preceding six years and then for subsequent six-year periods until the patent is expired.According to one attorney, the decision’s impact will be limited because laches was rarely applied in patent cases and was even less successful. The decision was also a demonstration of the Supreme Court’s reluctance to provide special rules for patent law that differ from the resolutions for similar issues in related legal areas.
An attorney who practices patent law may assist clients by guiding them through the patent application process. The attorney may file infringement lawsuits to pursue financial damages against the parties who copy a client’s patent without the proper authorization.