The issue of
sovereign immunity was raised in the Florida Prepaid Post-Secondary Education
Expense Board v. College Savings Bank case from 1999. The plaintiff, College
Savings Banks, filed a patent infringement suit against the defendant, Florida
Prepaid. The defendant was a State entity. The Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that State
sovereignty could not be taken away even though the Patent and Plant Variety
Protection Remedy Clarification Act says differently.
The plaintiff filed a suit against the defendant
which happened to be a State entity. The plaintiff claimed the Patent and Plant
Variety Protection Remedy Clarification Act takes away sovereign immunity — or
immunity from liability — from states. The defendant claimed the Seminole
Tribe v. Florida outcome declared sovereign immunity could not be taken from
plaintiff relied on the 14th Amendment which gave the State no power to take
away property without due process, which included patent properties. The defense
claimed no law passed by Congress shall be able to curtail the protection held
by the states from patent infringement suits.
In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled the Patent
and Plant Variety Protection Remedy Clarification Act could not take away
sovereign immunity from the State of Florida. The Court said only a consistent
disregard for the property rights and patent rights of citizens could permit Congress
to take away sovereign immunity from a State. Since the plaintiff could not
prove the defendant demonstrated consistent patent violations, the State’s
protection in the form of sovereign immunity would remain.