U.S. justices will hear arguments Tuesday morning in the lawsuit brought by Monsanto Co. against Knox County farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman alleging patent infringement.
Monsanto sued Bowman, a soybean farmer, in October 2007 for planting a second crop of soybeans each growing season using seeds that carried the genetically engineered trait – developed by Monsanto – which made the seeds resistant to Roundup Ready herbicide. The company argued its patent rights were not exhausted because the patent protection is applicable to each generation of soybeans that contains the patented trait.
At issue in Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Company, et al., 11-796, is whether the federal circuit erred by refusing to find the patent had been exhausted on seeds sold for planting and by creating an exception to the doctrine of patent exhaustion for self-replicating technologies.
If Bowman wins this case, attorneys say it could remove the incentive for companies to make the investment required to develop new products. Others say a ruling in favor of Bowman will allow farms to save seeds, which would help temper increases in seed prices.
Several groups have filed amicus briefs in support of Bowman, including the National Farmers Union and the Public Patent Foundation.
Arguments are expected to last 70 minutes.