The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases Monday. In Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule on the appropriate test to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under section 101 of the Copyright Act [text]. The case deals with designs on cheerleader uniforms, but the case is expected to have a broader impact. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Varsity Brand’s designs were copyrightable.
The court also agreed to rule in SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC [docket; cert. petition, PDF] on whether and to what extent the defense of laches [Nolo definition] may bar a claim for patent infringement brought within the Patent Act’s six-year statutory limitations period [35 USC § 286]. In Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (2014) [opinion], the court held [JURIST report] that the defense of laches cannot be used to shorten the three-year copyright limitations period. Despite finding “no substantive distinction material to the Petrella analysis” between the copyright and patent limitations periods, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that laches may be used to bar patent infringement claims accruing within the six-year limitations period.