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The defense of laches may be invoked where a plaintiff has unreasonably and inexcusably delayed in prosecuting its rights and where that delay has resulted in material prejudice to defendant.
Appellant sued appellee for patent infringement regarding chemical processes described in appellant's patents. The patents cover catalysts and processes for polymerizing certain hydrocarbons. In essence the patents teach that by mixing certain organometal compounds, particularly an organoaluminum compound, with a compound of a metal of Group IVB, VB, or VIB of the Periodic System of Elements, such as a titanium salt, a polymerization catalyst would be produced that polymerized olefins much more effectively than was previously possible. SGK sought a broad reading to the patents and an equally large protection against the unlicensed use of the teachings of the patents. The trial court held that no infringement existed, that claims of one of appellant's patents were invalid, and alternatively, that laches and estoppel barred appellant's claims. Appellant sought review.
Were appellant's claims barred by laches?
The appellate court reversed in part, and affirmed in part. The appellate court held that appellant's claims were not barred by laches because appellant did not inexcusably or unreasonably delay its action. Additionally, the court held that estoppel did not bar appellant's claims since the issues in the case were not previously litigated and the court's limiting statements were not necessary and essential to a judgment in a prior action. The holding of patent invalidity was reversed because the disputed patent adequately described the invention. Finally, the appellate court affirmed the holding that no infringement existed because appellee's process was not the equivalent of appellant's process.