On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to re-examine an oft-criticized, decades-old intellectual property precedent, Brulotte v. Thys Co. In Brulotte, the Court held that patent royalty agreements could not extend past the life of the patent -- no contractual extension of a patent right beyond its expiration, in other words.
Who is challenging this ruling? It's not quite Spider-Man, but it is an inventor who seems to be a big fan of his. Steven Kimble invented a toy that mimics the comic book character's ability to shoot webs from his wrists. Marvel promised to provide royalties if they made the web shooter toy, and eventually they did -- after years of litigation. In 2001, Marvel purchased the patent -- No. 5,072,856 -- for a lump sum plus annual royalties in perpetuity.
The patent expired in 2010. The agreement, however, was supposed to last forever.