In an opinion (PDF) that emphasizes the importance of not casually overruling precedent, the US Supreme Court has voted 6-3 not to allow patent royalties to be extended past the patent’s expiration date.
Today’s ruling in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises involves an inventor who created a Spider-Man-like toy “for shooting string foam” in 1990, for which he acquired US Patent No. 5,072,856. Following a lawsuit, Stephen Kimble struck a deal with Marvel to be paid $516,000 plus a three-percent royalty of any sales of the “Web Blaster” toy. The deal didn’t specify an end date.
Kimble tried to get the high court to overturn a controversial 1964 case called Brulotte v. Thys Co., which bars any payments of royalties past a patent expiration date. His lawyers called Brulotte the “product of a bygone era” and “the most widely criticized of this Court’s intellectual property” rulings.
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