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Paul Llewellyn Discusses How Delays in Filing Copyright Suits Can Affect Damages in Law360

May 19, 2014

Law360 reports that the Supreme Court recently ruled in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. that the doctrine of laches cannot be used to time-bar copyright claims, leading many to anticipate an onslaught of delayed copyright infringement cases being filed over works of art created many years prior. Plaintiff Petrella had sued MGM claiming that the studio had infringed her father’s copyright on a 1963 screenplay in producing the 1983 film Raging Bull. The case was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that laches, an equitable doctrine barring suits after certain unreasonable delays, prevented Petrella from suing the studio. However, the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that Petrella had the right to wait and see if the work became profitable prior to filing the suit.

However, just because laches cannot stop a case from proceeding does not mean that such delays won’t affect the results of a case. According to Kaye Scholer Partner Paul Llewellyn, “When the court is actually deciding the specific relief, it can still take delays into account.” He added, “I think that the ruling tells copyright defendants that even if you don't have a 'laches' defense that will knock it out of the box as a matter of law, you still have laches-related arguments.”

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