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Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission

778 F.3d 1243 (2015)

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Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

778 F.3d 1243 (2015)

Facts

The California Table Grape Commission (the commission) (defendant) was the licensee of two patents resulting from applications filed on September 28, 2004, for varieties of table grapes developed by the USDA. (defendant). A group of California growers (plaintiffs) entered into license agreements with the commission and paid fees to grow and sell the grape varieties. Before filing its patent applications for the varieties, the USDA held an open house where only mature grapes were displayed; no materials were displayed or disseminated. A third-party grower, who attended the open house, received unauthorized plant material for the varieties from an acquaintance at the USDA. The grower shared the material with his cousin, also a grower, and both agreed to not sell any grapes grown from the materials until after September 28, 2003. Before that critical date, one of the unauthorized growers produced 108 vines of one variety and 650 of the other, which were visible from the public highway but had no labels indicating the varieties. He showed the unlabeled vines to a business partner at least twice but did not sell the harvest until after the critical date. The unauthorized growers and the business partner appreciated the competitive advantage of having varieties in advance of their release and agreed to keep them confidential. The district found that the actions of the third-party growers did not constitute a public use that barred patentability under 35 U.S.C. § 102 (b).

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bryson, C.J.)

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