Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co.
Annotate this Case
467 U.S. 986 (1984)
U.S. Supreme Court
Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co., 467 U.S. 986 (1984)
Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co.
Argued February 27, 1984
Decided June 26, 1984
467 U.S. 986
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use data submitted by an applicant for registration of a covered product (hereinafter pesticide) in evaluating the application of a subsequent applicant, and to disclose publicly some of the submitted data. Under the data-consideration provisions of § 3, as amended in 1978, applicants now are granted a 10-year period of exclusive use for data on new active ingredients contained in pesticides registered after September 30, 1978, while all other data submitted after December 31, 1969, may be cited and considered in support of another application for 15 years after the original submission if the applicant offers to compensate the original submitter. If the parties cannot agree on the amount of compensation, either may initiate a binding arbitration proceeding, and if an original submitter refuses to participate in negotiations or arbitration, he forfeits his claim for compensation. Data that do not qualify for either the 10-year period of exclusive use or the 15-year period of compensation may be considered by EPA without limitation. Section 10, as amended in 1978, authorizes, in general, public disclosure of all health, safety, and environmental data even though it may result in disclosure of trade secrets. Appellee, a company headquartered in Missouri, is an inventor, producer, and seller of pesticides, and invests substantial sums in developing active ingredients for pesticides and in producing end-use products that combine such ingredients with inert ingredients. Appellee brought suit in Federal District Court for injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging, inter alia, that the data-consideration and data-disclosure provisions of FIFRA effected a "taking" of property without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and that the data-consideration provisions violated the Amendment because they effected a taking of property for a private, rather than a public, purpose. The District Court held that the challenged provisions of FIFRA are unconstitutional, and permanently enjoined EPA from implementing or enforcing those provisions.
1. To the extent that appellee has an interest in its health, safety, and environmental data cognizable as a trade secret property right under Missouri law, that property right is protected by the Taking Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Despite their intangible nature, trade secrets have many of the characteristics of more traditional forms of property. Moreover, this Court has found other kinds of intangible interests to be property for purposes of the Clause. Pp. 467 U. S. 1000-1004.
2. EPA's consideration or disclosure of data submitted by appellee prior to October 22, 1972, or after September 30, 1978, does not effect a taking, but EPA's consideration or disclosure of certain health, safety, and environmental data constituting a trade secret under state law and submitted by appellee between those two dates may constitute a taking under certain conditions. Pp. 467 U. S. 1004-1014.
(a) A factor for consideration in determining whether a governmental action short of acquisition or destruction of property has gone beyond proper "regulation" and effects a "taking" is whether the action interferes with reasonable investment-backed expectations. With respect to any health, safety, and environmental data that appellee submitted to EPA after the effective date of the 1978 FIFRA amendments (October 1, 1978), appellee could not have had a reasonable, investment-backed expectation that EPA would keep the data confidential beyond the limits prescribed in the amended statute itself. As long as appellee is aware of the conditions under which the data are submitted, and the conditions are rationally related to a legitimate Government interest, a voluntary submission of data in exchange for the economic advantages of a registration can hardly be called a taking. Pp. 467 U. S. 1005-1008.
(b) Prior to its amendment in 1972 (effective October 22, 1972), FIFRA was silent with respect to EPA's authorized use and disclosure of data submitted to it in connection with an application for registration. Although the Trade Secrets Act provides a criminal penalty for a Government employee who discloses, in a manner not authorized by law, any trade secret information revealed to him during the course of his official duties, it is not a guarantee of confidentiality to submitters of data, and, absent an express promise, appellee had no reasonable, investment-backed expectation that its information submitted to EPA before October 22, 1972, would remain inviolate in the EPA's hands. The possibility was substantial that the Federal Government at some future time would find disclosure to be in the public interest. A fortiori, the Trade Secrets Act, which penalizes only unauthorized disclosure, cannot be construed as any sort of assurance against internal agency
use of submitted data during consideration of the application of a subsequent applicant for registration. Pp. 467 U. S. 1008-1010.
(c) However, under the statutory scheme in effect between October 22, 1972, and September 30, 1978, a submitter was given an opportunity to protect its trade secrets from disclosure by designating them as trade secrets at the time of submission. The explicit governmental guarantee to registration applicants of confidentiality and exclusive use with respect to trade secrets during this period formed the basis of a reasonable investment-backed expectation. If EPA, consistent with current provisions of FIFRA, were now to disclose such trade secret data or consider those data in evaluating the application of a subsequent applicant in a manner not authorized by the version of FIFRA in effect between 1972 and 1978, its actions would frustrate appellee's reasonable investment-backed expectation. If, however, arbitration pursuant to FIFRA were to yield just compensation for the loss in the market value of appellee's trade secret data suffered because of EPA's consideration of the data in connection with another application (no arbitration having yet occurred), then appellee would have no claim against the Government for a taking. Pp. 467 U. S. 1010-1014.
3. Any taking of private property that may occur in connection with EPA's use of data submitted to it by appellee between October 22, 1972, and September 30, 1978, is a taking for a "public use," rather than for a "private use," even though subsequent applicants may be the most direct beneficiaries. So long as a taking has a conceivable public character, the means by which it will be attained is for Congress to determine. Congress believed that the data-consideration provisions would eliminate costly duplication of research and streamline the registration process, making new end-use products available to consumers more quickly. Such a procompetitive purpose is within Congress' police power. With regard to FIFRA's data-disclosure provisions, the optimum amount of disclosure to assure the public that a product is safe and effective is to be determined by Congress, not the courts. Pp. 467 U. S. 1014-1016.
4. A Tucker Act remedy is available to provide appellee with just compensation for any taking of property that may occur as a result of FIFRA's data-consideration and data-disclosure provisions, and thus the District Court erred in enjoining EPA from acting under those provisions. Neither FIFRA nor its legislative history discusses the interaction between FIFRA and the Tucker Act, and inferring a withdrawal of Tucker Act jurisdiction would amount to a disfavored partial repeal by implication of the Tucker Act. FIFRA's provision that an original submitter of data forfeits his right to compensation from a later submitter for the use of the original submitter's data if he fails to participate in, or comply with the terms of, a negotiated or arbitrated
compensation settlement merely requires a claimant to first seek satisfaction through FIFRA's procedure before asserting a Tucker Act claim. Pp. 467 U. S. 1016-1019.
5. Because the Tucker Act is available as a remedy for any uncompensated taking appellee may suffer as a result of the operation of the challenged provisions of FIFRA, appellee's challenges to the constitutionality of the arbitration and compensation scheme of FIFRA are not ripe for resolution. Pp. 467 U. S. 1019-1020.
564 F.Supp. 552, vacated and remanded.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in which O'CONNOR, J., joined, except for Part IV-B and a statement on p. 467 U. S. 1013. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 467 U. S. 1021. WHITE, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.