MBHB snippets Alert - May 19, 2014
Today in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (case number 12-1315), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine of laches could not be invoked to bar a copyright claim that was brought within the statutorily allowed three-year window from the particular act of infringement. In Petrella, the Court reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had affirmed the district court’s summary dismissal of the suit based on laches. Resolving a circuit split at the appellate level, the Supreme Court held that the lower courts erred in “failing to recognize that the copyright statute of limitations, §507(b), itself takes account of delay.” Petrella, slip op. at 11. The opinion emphasized that the Supreme Court has “never applied laches to bar in their entirety claims for discrete wrongs occurring within a federally prescribed limitations period.” Id. at 14-15. Rather, the Court stated that laches is a “gap-filling, not legislation-overriding,” measure that is appropriate only when there is not an explicit statute of limitations. Id at 14.