Supreme Court Gives a Primer on Laches in Intellectual Property Cases


In a recent copyright case revolving around the film Raging Bull, the Supreme Court held that the equitable doctrine of laches, which generally prevents claims where there was an unreasonable delay, does not bar a claim brought within the three-year statute of limitations articulated in the Copyright Act. Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 572 U.S. ___ (2014). The opinion went on to give a primer on the effects of delays in bringing intellectual property claims, particularly how the doctrines of laches and estoppel play out in copyright, trademark, and patent cases.

The Backstory -

Boxing champion Jake LaMotta and his friend Frank Petrella told the story of LaMotta’s boxing career in two screenplays and a book, registered in 1963, 1970, and 1973. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) acquired the motion picture rights, and in 1980, released the film Raging Bull. A year later, in 1981, Petrella died. Upon his death, his renewal rights in his copyright reverted to his heirs (these works were registered before the current Copyright Act and required renewals). His heirs then had the right to renew the copyrights unburdened by any prior assignment, which his daughter did in 1991.

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Topics:  Copyright, Copyright Infringement, Estoppel, Laches, MGM, Petrella v. MGM, SCOTUS, Statute of Limitations

Published In: Art, Entertainment & Sports Updates, 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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