Patent Ruling Sparks Debate on States’ Legal Immunity
A court ruling in October that held California immune to patent infringement charges from a biomedical company has revived the debate over states' legal protections from patent lawsuits, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In a case reviewed last month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Biomedical Patent Management sued California for refusing to pay royalties on a patented method of screening birth defects in fetuses.
The court dismissed the case, reinforcing a settled law that says states can sue other parties for patent infringement while remaining immune from patent lawsuits.
The debate over states' liability in patent cases could have significant implications for the University of California, which receives more patents than any other university in the U.S.
In dismissing the Biomedical Patent Management suit last year, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel wrote that the court is "troubled by the University of California's ability to reap the benefits of the patent system without being exposed to liability for infringement."
Andrew Dhuey, the attorney for Biomedical Patent Management, said the company will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Congress in 1992 passed a statute that prohibited states from using immunity to protect themselves from being found liable in patent lawsuits. However, the Supreme Court overturned the law in 1999, ruling that states and state-sponsored institutions are protected from liability in federal cases involving patent lawsuits (Lattman, Wall Street Journal, 11/13).