Bonito Boats

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  • One purpose of novelty: it would injure the public of known things were removed from public use.
  • Anticipation: section 103
federal patent law has long required that an innovation not be anticipated by the prior art in the field. Even if a particular combination of elements is “novel” in the literal sense of the term, it will not qualify for federal patent protection if its contours are so traced by the existing technology in the field that the “improvement is the work of the skillful mechanic, not that of the inventor.” The nonobviousness requirement extends the field of unpatentable material beyond that which is known to the public under § 102, to include that which could readily be deduced from publicly available material by a person of ordinary skill in the pertinent field of endeavor.
  • 103:
35 U.S.C. § 103, which refuses protection to new developments where “the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person of ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains.”
  • property right:
The applicant whose invention satisfies the requirements of novelty, nonobviousness, and utility, and who is willing to reveal to the public the substance of his discovery and “the best mode ... of carrying out his invention,” 35 U.S.C. § 112, is granted “the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention throughout the United States,” for a period of 17 years. 35 U.S.C. § 154.
  • The bargain.
The federal patent system thus embodies a carefully crafted bargain for encouraging the creation and disclosure of new, useful, and nonobvious advances in technology and design in return for the exclusive right to practice the invention for a period of years. “[The inventor] may keep his invention secret and reap its fruits indefinitely. In consideration of its disclosure and the consequent benefit to the community, the patent is granted. An exclusive enjoyment is guaranteed him for seventeen years, but upon expiration of that period, the knowledge of the invention inures to the people, who are thus enabled without restriction to practice it and profit by its use.”
free exploitation of ideas will be the rule, to which the protection of a federal patent is the exception
  • Policy reason in this case to invoke Supremacy Clause:
The offer of federal protection from competitive exploitation of intellectual property would be rendered meaningless in a world where substantially similar state law protections were readily available. To a limited extent, the federal patent laws must determine not only what is protected, but also what is free for all to use.
  • Show how to find case by citation
  • Subtle point: if something is outside patent protection, why does the Supremacy clause hold? Ex, something in the same area as a federal crime, but not one, can be a state crime. The answer is that it would defeat the policy reason supporting patent law. This is a "preemptive sweep" unusual for the Supremacy Clause. The next few paragraphs discuss the fact this "sweep" has limits. E.g., trade secrets. An important distinction is that trade secrets are, well, secret, so the disclosure aspect of patent law isn't frustrated by them.
  • Section III: the Supremacy clause is invoked because the purpose of patent law is frustrated by the FL law even though the FL law doesn't directly deal with stuff that is patented.
  • Bonito Boats argued that it has something to do with "unfair competition" but this isn't really true because that typically concerns deception.
  • In this case, protecting the boat hull does not further the purpose of patent law, but is in fact contrary to it because it does not allow development or innovation based on publicly known things.
  • Reverse engineering is actually encouraged by the policy behind patent law.
  • Additional policy consideration: you can search patents and easily ascertain it's status. This FL law doesn't provide an similar process so people will always be acting in an environment of uncertainty.