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Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank and United States

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Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, College Savings Bank (Respondent), brought suit against a Florida state agency, alleging infringement of a patent it holds, under the Patent and Plant Variety Protection Remedy Clarification Act (Patent Remedy Act).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Congress may not abrogate state sovereign immunity in patent infringement cases under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Smith held that neutral, generally applicable laws may be applied to religious practices even when not supported by a compelling governmental interest.

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Facts. Respondent sued a Florida state agency for infringing its finance methodology, for which it had obtained patent protection. The Petitioner, Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board (Petitioner), alleges that it is protected from suit by state sovereign immunity. Petitioner argues that Congress cannot abrogate its immunity in the Patent Remedy Act, even acting through Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Issue. May Congress abrogate state sovereign immunity in the Patent Remedy Act through Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?

Held. No. Ruling reversed and remanded.
Although Congress clearly meant to abrogate sovereign immunity by enacting the Patent Remedy Act under its Fourteenth Amendment power to enforce, the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) finds the legislation inappropriate under City of Boerne, 521 U.S. 507 (1997).
Specifically, the Supreme Court finds that the legislation is neither preventative nor remedial and as such is not congruent or proportional as required by City of Boerne. In particular, the Supreme Court notes that only eight patent infringement suits were brought against the states over the past century.
The Supreme Court also notes that the Respondent may still have state law remedies available to it.

Dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) notes that the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate patents, making state law remedies inappropriate. He also notes that the Supreme Court had never before required Congress to find a pattern of deprivation of a specific right before it passes an act.

Discussion. The majority argument is rather disingenuous. Note that the Supreme Court uses “States just don’t infringe patents,” as an argument in a patent infringement suit against a state. It is not clear how often a behavior must be noted before Congressional action under Section: 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, becomes congruent and proportional, but the Supreme Court argues that it has not yet occurred in the realm of patent infringement.

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