Deepsouth Packing Co., Inc. v. Laitram Corp.
406 U.S. 518 (1972)

  • Laitram had a patent on a machine that cleaned shrimp. Deepsouth started manufacturing the components for a similar machine. Laitram sued for infringement.
    • Deepsouth argued that they never infringed on Laitram's patent because they never made the entire machine. They just made all the individual unpatented components (screws, blades, etc.) put them in a box, and shipped it to overseas customers (where Laitram's US patent didn't apply).
      • What those customers did with the components was none of Deepsouth's concern....
  • The US Supreme Court found for Deepsouth.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Laitram's patent gave them a monopoly on the machine, but couldn't give them a monopoly on individual components.
      • It wouldn't be fair to let Laitram use their patent to stop Deepsouth from making screws and conveyor belts and such.
      • Obviously this was a pretty blatant case, but what if Laitram was only making some of the parts? What percentage would they have to make to infringe? There's no good place to draw a line.
    • The Court noted that if Deepsouth assembled a machine in the US, even just to test it to see if all the parts fit together, that would count as making the machine and be an infringement.
  • Congress responded to this decision by enacting 35 U.S.C. 271(f), which made it an infringement to package up a "substantial portion" of the components of a patented invention and send them overseas for assembly.
    • Sometimes this is now known as Deepsouth Infringement.