Laches: Negligence in the performance of a legal duty; delay in asserting a right, claiming a privilege, or making application for redress. “Laches is not to be confused with the ‘statute of limitations,’ which sets specific periods to file a lawsuit for types of claims (negligence, breach of contract, fraud, etc.)” – Law.com. Pronunciation is similar to “latches.”*
Laches was invoked in coverage of the July 8 decision, by the District Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia, in Pro-Football v. Blackhorse, which affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to cancel the Washington Redskins’ six “Redskins” trademark registrations. “It was a long-awaited decision as it has been 23 years since the first case challenging the marks was filed,” wrote Christine Farley, a professor of intellectual-property law at American University in Washington, DC, in a blog post. “But it was swift justice in the Eastern District where the court just heard oral arguments on June 23rd”:
Today the district court found that the First Amendment was not implicated in trademark registration decisions since these decisions do not restrict persons from speaking or using their trademarks. The court rightly noted that trademark rights are created by common law through use in commerce; they are not created by federal statute and the government has no authority to cancel trademark rights.
The court further ruled that trademark registration constitutes government speech, not private speech under the factors laid out in the Supreme Court’s June decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. …
The court also ruled that the Native Americans challenging the registrations had presented sufficient evidence to satisfy the disparagement standard. … One particularly compelling piece of evidence is a memo written in 1972 by then team president Edward Bennet Williams to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle after he met with eight leaders of major Native American organizations. He explained in the memo that these organizations were “vigorously” opposed to the name and that he found their arguments “cogently expressed.” …
Finally, the court ruled that laches did not bar the cancellation. As the challengers in this case filed suit not long after reaching the age of majority, there was no delay. But more importantly, the court held that laches does not apply in cases in which there is an overriding public interest. In this case, the court found that there was an overriding public interest in removing disparaging cases from the trademark register.
Like many legal terms, laches came into English from Anglo-French; its first recorded usage (as “lachesse,” meaning slackness) is from the mid-14th century. The legal usage dates from the late 16th century.
For more on the history of the Redskins trademark dispute, see my April 2014 post, “Troubled Names.”