The Supreme Court Resolves a Major Patent Dispute

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on a patent case that affects many high-tech companies, including Agilent.  SCOTUS has reversed a lower court decision.

I had previously blogged about Life Technologies v Promega (14-1538).  At issue is whether a single, generic U.S component is enough to make an otherwise foreign-made product subject to U.S. patent laws.

Agilent presented an amicus curia (“friend of the court”) brief, arguing that more than a single commodity component should be at issue.  Otherwise, foreign products could be liable for U.S. patent infringement simply because they contained a generic U.S.-made part or widget.

“This would unfairly disrupt legitimate and useful global supply chains,” Bradford Schmidt (Agilent VP of Global Intellectual Property) told the court.

The justices agreed.

“We hold that a single component does not constitute a substantial portion of the components that can give rise to liability,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  “When a product is made abroad and all components but a single commodity article are supplied from abroad, the activity is outside the statute’s scope.”

The court did not decide how many components would be required to meet the definition.  The court also said that a single component would suffice “if it is especially made or especially adapted for use in the invention and not a staple article or commodity.”

“My goal has been to protect Agilent’s efficient global manufacturing systems from undue intrusion by patent law,” said Brad, who has been involved in the case for five years.  “The influence of Agilent’s amicus brief is visible in the opening line of the Court’s opinion: ‘This case concerns the intersection of international supply chains and federal patent law.’

“I am thrilled by today’s decision.”

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