District Court Judge Greg N. Stivers wrote in an April 10 opinion that SCA can’t prove that most of First Quality’s children’s and adult diapers violate provisions of SCA’s patent covering designs for “absorbent pants-type diapers,” saying the placement of elastic threads and absorbent pads in the accused products don't align with SCA’s patent.
The court rejected summary judgment as to one product category, deciding that “there is a genuine dispute as to whether this portion of the elastic laminate material can no longer be considered part of an elastically stretchable region,” which would determine whether the element is consistent with SCA’s patent.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently considered whether a laches defense could bar SCA from bringing the suit, and it vacated a 2015 Federal Circuit decision that said the doctrine could still be used to bar the recovery of pre-suit damages in long-delayed patent suits.
In March, the high court said time constraints did not bar SCA from pursuing the suit against its rival. The Supreme Court said a laches defense may not be used to preclude claims when infringement occurred during the six-year timeframe prescribed by the Patent Act, and it remanded the case for reconsideration.
The dispute stems from SCA’s 2010 complaint, in which it claimed that the diapers in question, used by potty-training children and adults with incontinence, were developed in its Swedish lab and that the inventors filed an initial patent application in 1992, a full decade before U.S. Patent No. 6,375,646 was issued.
In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. said SCA knew it had claims against First Quality since October 2003 at the latest, when it sent the company a letter claiming ownership of the patent, but SCA waited until August 2010 to file its case.
In 2015, an en banc appeals court said that the laches defense — which lets judges toss lawsuits after a plaintiff unfairly “slept” on the right to sue — still applied after the Supreme Court’s so-called Raging Bull decision. That 2014 precedent found the defense inapplicable in copyright cases because Congress had expressly created a statute of limitations that judges are not allowed to trump, and the Supreme Court said the same goes for patent law.
The case is SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag et al. v. First Quality Baby Products LLC et al., case number 1:10-cv-00122, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.