A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals makes clear that intellectual property owners cannot sleep on their rights for years and then expect the courts to enforce their rights against infringers. In 2009, an individual named Paula Petrella filed an action for copyright infringement against MGM and 20th Century Fox, claiming they had infringed her rights in a book and two screenplays that supposedly formed the basis for the motion picture “Raging Bull.” Readers may remember that Raging Bull came out in 1980, so Ms. Petrella delayed for 19 years before filing suit. Not surprisingly, the Ninth Circuit found that Ms. Petrella’s suit was barred by a legal doctrine known as laches (which is a fancy way of saying Ms. Petrella’s lawsuit was thrown out because she slept on her rights).
We ourselves have been very successful in getting trademark and copyright lawsuits dismissed because the plaintiff waited too long before suing. So, we caution intellectual property owners in the strongest possible way they must act promptly and consult with experienced intellectual property litigation counsel as soon as they know or suspect their rights are being infringed