Ancient Doctrine of Laches Affirmed in 9th Circuit Copyright Case

In lawsuits involving Intellectual Property, particularly copyright and trademark infringements, lawyers for the infringing party typically raise the equitable defense of laches.   Laches involves the right’s owner having knowledge of the infringement and doing nothing to protect its interests.  In copyright for the owner, with full notice of an intended infringement to stand inactive while the proposed infringer spends large sums of money in its exploitation, and to intervene only when his speculation has proved a success is highly inequitable and prejudicial conduct that should not be rewarded at law.  Only in rare instances is such a defense successful.   Here is one of those times.  In the case of EVERGREEN SAFETY COUNCIL v. RSA NETWORK the 9th Circuit held that the Complainant sat on his rights regarding the alleged infringement where the alleged infringing materials in the form of a Training Manual were first presented to him for his review and comment by letter approximately ten years prior to the commencement of his claim.  That he claimed neither to have opened nor even received the letter had little bearing where the alleged infringer expended time and resources producing its own manual during the intervening period.   Again, this is a defense commonly raised, but rarely successful.   Still if a party disputes the use of its proprietary creative and original content, be it written materials or digital content produced for the internet,  a timely review of the issue with legal counsel will mitigate the risk of the laches defense being raised in a subsequent infringement proceeding.

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