Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

489 U.S. 141 (1989)

A state law that interferes with the patent monopoly system under the U.S. Constitution and codified in the Patent Laws is invalid.

Relevant Facts

Bonito Boats (the plaintiff) invented a novel and useful design for boat hulls that included both utilitarian and aesthetic improvements but never sought a patent. The plaintiff successfully marketed and sold the design in its boats in Florida and other states. Subsequently, Florida passed a state law prohibiting the copying of boat hulls through a process known as direct-molding. The process involved taking an already-existing boat hull and placing it in a hollowed-out mold to create a shape. A substance is then placed into the hollowed-out mold to create a copy. The plaintiff sued Thunder Craft Boats, Inc. (the defendant) under that state law, alleging that they copied the plaintiff’s boat hull design. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the federal patent laws preempted the state law.

The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The state court of appeal affirmed. The state supreme court affirmed. On writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiff appealed the lower rulings invalidating the Florida state law.

Issue

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Holding & Reasoning

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Concurrence

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Dissent

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Last updated:

January 6, 2021

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Procedural History

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Citations

489 U.S. 141 (1989)