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Brulotte v. Thys Co.

United States Supreme Court
379 U.S. 29 (1964)


Facts

Thys Company. (Thys) (plaintiff) owned a number of patents for a hop-picking machine. Thys sold the machine to Brulotte (defendant) and granted a license for Brulotte’s use of the machine. The license terms required Brulotte to pay a royalty equal to the greater of either $500 per season or $3.33 per 200 pounds of hops harvested. The license covered 12 patents related to the hop-picking machines, though only seven of the patents were actually embodied in the machine sold to Brulotte. All seven patents expired prior to 1957, but the license terms continued well after that date. Brulotte withheld royalty payments due both before and after the expiration date of the seven machine patents. Thys sued Brulotte to enforce the licensing agreement and collect the royalty payments. Brulotte contended that the license agreement was unenforceable under the doctrine of patent misuse, because Thys was unlawfully extending the patent grant by requiring royalty payments after expiration of the patents. The trial court ruled in Thys’s favor. The Supreme Court of Washington affirmed, concluding that the extended period during which Thys was collecting royalty payments constituted a reasonable time over which to allocate the payments for use of the machine. The United States Supreme Court granted certiori.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Douglas, J.)

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Dissent (Harlan, J.)

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