Chief Judge Stark Denies Motion for Summary Judgment of Laches

August 18, 2016

Publication| Intellectual Property

In W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., C.A. No. 11-515-LPS (D. Del. July 27, 2016), Chief Judge Stark adopted Magistrate Judge Burke’s report and recommendation that C.R. Bard, Inc. and Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc.’s (collectively, “Bard”) motion for summary judgment of laches be denied. Judge Burke had concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed to rebut the presumption of laches arising from plaintiff W.L. Gore and Associates, Inc.’s (“Gore”) delay in bringing suit.

Chief Judge Stark explained that, in order to rebut the presumption of laches, the Court needed only to find a “minimum quantum of evidence” that Gore was reasonably motivated in its delay. According to the Court, design defects in the accused product, as well as Gore’s involvement in other litigation, sufficed to meet this threshold.

The Court rejected Bard’s argument that involvement in other litigation could justify delay only if Bard had notice of future litigation, since notice of future litigation was no longer a strict requirement to overcome laches; instead, all relevant factors must be considered in evaluating the propriety of the delay. Chief Judge Stark found a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Bard had reason to believe it was likely to be sued when Gore’s other litigation ended.

Chief Judge Stark also found that, on summary judgment, Gore did not need to show that its prior litigation was the actual reason for delay; rather, Gore simply had to create an “inference” that its delay was excusable. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Gore as the non-moving party, Chief Judge Stark denied Bard’s motion for summary judgment.

Key Points: Parties involved in litigation in the District of Delaware where laches claims are at issue should note that Chief Judge Stark cited the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, 2016 WL 309607 (U.S. May 2, 2016), as an additional reason for denying summary judgment, noting that the Supreme Court’s decision is expected before a bench trial on laches in this case.

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