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

United States Supreme Court
489 U.S. 141 (1989)


Facts

Bonito Boats, Inc. (plaintiff) was a Florida corporation that developed a design for a boat hull. Bonito never sought United States patent protection for the hull’s utilitarian or design aspects. Bonito subsequently successfully marketed and sold the hull in interstate commerce. Six years after the original hull had been made public, Florida passed a state law that prohibited the copying of vessel hulls through a direct molding process. Bonito sued Thunder Craft Boats, Inc. (defendant) in Florida state court, alleging that Thunder Craft had copied Bonito’s hull design through direct molding in violation of the Florida law. Thunder Craft moved to dismiss, arguing that the Florida law was invalid because it conflicted with federal patent law as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. The trial court granted Thunder Craft’s motion, and divided panels of the appellate court and Florida Supreme Court affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted Bonito's petition for a writ of certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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