The court affirmed the district court’s holding that the patented grape plants were not the subject of an invalidating public use. The plants were obtained in an unauthorized manner by third parties more than one year prior to the filing date, and some were planted in a field within view of the public. Agreeing with the district court, the Federal Circuit held that the third parties had not publicly used the grape plants, because the facts demonstrated that they had incentives to keep the plants secret and maintained tight control over who knew about them. Further, the plantings were not enough to create an invalidating public use, because they were limited in comparison to other nearby plantings, they were unlabeled, and there was no evidence that any member of the public recognized these plants. Therefore, “a reasonable jury could conclude that if members of the public are not informed of, and cannot readily discern, the claimed features of the invention in the allegedly invalidating prior art, the public has not been put in possession of those features.”
Delano Farms Co. v. The California Table Grape Commission, Case No. 2014-1030 (January 9, 2015); Opinion by: Bryson, joined by Prost and Hughes; Appealed From: Eastern District of California, Haddon, J. To read the full opinion, click here.
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