June 04, 2014
On May 19, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The question in this case, which concerns the copyright for a screenplay on which the movie Raging Bull was based, was whether the defense of “laches”--that is, that the other side delayed too long in bringing its claim--can be asserted to bar a copyright claim for damages falling within the three-year statute of limitations prescribed by Congress.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held by a vote of 6-3 that Laches cannot be invoked as a bar to Petrella’s pursuit of a claim for damages falling within the Copyright Act’s three-year limitations period. However, in extraordinary circumstances, laches may, at the very outset of the litigation, curtail the equitable relief available to the plaintiff. In addition, laches may always come into play at the remedial stage when determining appropriate injunctive relief and assessing profits attributable to infringement.
Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined the opinion of the Court. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which the Chief Justice and Justice Kennedy joined. The decision of the Ninth Circuit was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
To discuss the case, we have Christina Mulligan, who is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law.