Laches in Trademark Infringement: How Long Can You Sleep on Rights?

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Trademark infringement litigation typically centers around requests for injunctive relief. Although monetary relief is regularly sought, damages are awarded in only a small percentage of cases. Because the courts’ equitable powers are called upon, the principles (and maxims) of equity are frequently invoked, including unclean hands (“he who comes into equity must do so with clean hands”) and laches (“equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights”). Because the consuming public’s interest in not being exposed to confusingly similar trademarks is held to be paramount to the interests of the private litigants, an interesting body of laches case law has arisen regarding the circumstances in which a plaintiff’s delay in taking action is so inexcusable that it can be barred from all relief.

There are two types of injunctions that come into play in trademark cases: preliminary and permanent. Not surprisingly, the delay that can bar a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order is much shorter than that which will bar permanent relief; the former is measured in weeks or months, the latter in years or even decades.

Originally published in New York Law Journal on March 26, 2014.

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Topics:  Infringement, Laches, Trademark Litigation, Trademarks

Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Intellectual Property Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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