|Washington, May 28 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court gave inventors more power to sue competitors for making modified versions of patented products, issuing a decision that extends the reach of hundreds of thousands of patents. |
The 9-0 ruling stopped short of the complete victory patent holders sought. Still, it bolstered patents covering everything from genetic codes to children's books by partially overturning a ruling by the U.S. appeals court that handles all patent cases.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit improperly limited a legal doctrine that lets patent holders sue others who make ``equivalent'' products. The appeals court decision would ``risk destroying the legitimate expectations of inventors in their property,'' Kennedy wrote.
Lawyers have called the case the most significant patent fight at the Supreme Court in two decades. The lower court ruling roiled the business community, dividing companies that are frequent targets of patent suits from those more concerned about suing to enforce their own intellectual property rights.
Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp., Eastman Kodak Co., DuPont Co., Genentech Inc. and Ford Motor Co. were among the companies that supported the appeals court ruling, saying it would ward off frivolous patent suits.
Pfizer Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., 3M Co., Dow Chemical Co. and such research institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology urged reversal. That group said the lower court decision would slash the value of existing patents and discourage companies from investing in research.
Experts have said as many as 90 percent of the 1.2 million patents now in force may be affected by the case.