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“Raging Bull” may be a Fight in the Patent Ring and Beyond

May 29, 2014

​Fenwick & West partner Ilana Rubel was quoted by Law360 in a story on how the U.S. Supreme Court has eliminated the doctrine of laches defense against copyright infringement claims, through its decision in a case brought by the daughter of “Raging Bull” author Frank Petrella. 

Prior to the court’s decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., the “status quo” was that this legal doctrine “could coexist” with legislative statutes of limitations, Rubel told Law360. A claim filed within the applicable statutory time limit could “nevertheless be barred by laches” under the right circumstances, Rubel said.

“The Petrella ruling really cast doubt on that entire framework and approach,” she said. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decision might apply to many types of cases in which a laches defense is raised.

“While [Petrella] was a copyright case, the logic would seem to apply across the board, and I think it really calls into question whether you can ever have a bar based on laches where there is a statute of limitations,” Rubel added.

A more immediate ramification of the Court’s decision is that “authors of copyrighted materials may begin resurrecting long buried works and asserting infringement claims against current users,” Rubel wrote in a Fenwick Litigation Alert, co-authored by Fenwick attorney Sebastian Kaplan. 

“The doctrine of laches—a plaintiff’s unreasonable delay in bringing suit combined with prejudice to a defendant—had kept many infringement claims interred where the author had not filed suit within three years of discovering the infringement,” Rubel and Kaplan noted. 

The full article is available through the Law360 website (subscription required).