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  • Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, I…Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc.
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Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc.

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


Bonito Boats (plaintiff) developed a new and useful boat hull design that included both utilitarian and design improvements, for which Bonito never sought U.S. patent protection. Based in Florida, Bonito successfully marketed and sold the boat hull in interstate commerce. Six years after the original hull had been made public, Florida passed a state law prohibiting the copying of vessel (boat) hulls through a direct molding process. Bonito sued Thunder Craft (defendant) under that state law for copying the Bonito boat hull design. Thunder Craft countered with a motion to dismiss on the basis that the Federal patent laws, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, pre-empted such a state law. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, which was affirmed in the state court of appeal and the state supreme court, each time by a split court. On writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bonito Boat appealed the lower rulings invalidating the Florida state law.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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