Delano Farms Co., et al. v. The California Table Grape Comm., et al., No. 10-1546 (Fed. Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, California grape growers who purchased grapevines covered by the USDA's patents, brought this action to challenge the validity and enforceability of the USDA's patents on three varieties of grapes, as well as the conduct of the California Table Grape Commission (Commission) and the USDA in licensing and enforcing the patents. The court held that the district court correctly held that the USDA was a necessary party to plaintiffs' declaratory judgement claims based on the Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. 1 et seq. The court also held that the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., was broad enough to allow plaintiffs to pursue equitable relief against the USDA on its patent law claims. The court further held that plaintiffs' claims were sufficient to overcome any presumption of regularity that could apply to a certain USDA employee who was one of the co-inventors of each of the three varieties of grapes. The court finally held that because plaintiffs failed to point to anything other than the issuance of a patent for the Sweet Scarlet grapes that would provide a plausible basis for finding that Sweet Scarlet grapes form a relevant antitrust market, the court upheld the district court's decision dismissing plaintiffs' antitrust claim.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on September 1, 2011.