Doctrine of Laches in Patent Suits

Federal Circuit says that the doctrine of laches applies to damages in patent cases since limitation periods in patent suits are not Federal law

The Federal Circuit ruled on September 18, 2015 that the doctrine of laches can still be used to bar the recovery of pre-suit damages in long-delayed patent suits.

The doctrine of laches lets judges dismiss lawsuits after a plaintiff unfairly “slept” on their right to sue.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s “Raging Bull” decided last year that laches does not apply in copyright cases because Congress had expressly created a statute of limitations that judges are not allowed to trump.
The British definition of Laches is:

A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation.

When you claim that a person’s legal suit against you is not valid because of this, you would call it estoppel by laches.


The pivotal case on the doctrine of laches is an 1874 British case, Lindsay Petroleum Co. in which the Court stated:

“(T)he doctrine of laches in Courts of Equity is not an arbitrary or a technical doctrine. Where it would be practically unjust to give a remedy, either because the party has, by his conduct, done that which might fairly be regarded as equivalent to a waiver of it, or where by his conduct and neglect he has, though perhaps not waiving that remedy, yet put the other party in a situation in which it would not be reasonable to place him if the remedy were afterwards to be asserted, in either of these cases, lapse of time and delay are most material.

“But in every case, if an argument against relief, which otherwise would be just, is founded upon mere delay, that delay of course not amounting to a bar by any statute of limitations, the validity of that defence must be tried upon principles substantially equitable.

“Two circumstances, always important in such cases, are, the length of the delay and the nature of the acts done during the interval, which might affect either party and cause a balance of justice or injustice in taking the one course or the other, so far as relates to the remedy.”

Doctrine of Laches in Patent Suits

Categorized as Patent law

By David Michaels

David Michaels, J.D., B.Eng., CHRM is a trained attorney who holds certificates in Canadian Trademark Law (2012) and Canadian Patent Law (1996) from McGill University. He has worked in the area of trademark law in Canada since 1995 and in the USA since 1993. David is a legal blogger, brand consultant, an eCommerce entrepreneur, and an aeronautical engineer. Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the author's notes of the current state of trademark law and should not be attributed as opinions of the author, his employer, clients or the sponsors of The author does not warrant that these notes are up-to-date. Trademark law is constantly changing and it varies between jurisdictions and even within jurisdictions. This website should not be relied upon.