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Indiana farmer’s tangle with seed producer over patent infringement gets SCOTUS review

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The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to review a federal appeals court decision regarding patent infringement in a case involving an Indiana farmer and a seed producer.

At issue in Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Company and Monsanto Technology LLC, 11-796, is whether the federal circuit erred by refusing to find a patent exhaustion in patented seeds even after an authorized sale and by creating an exception to the doctrine of patent exhaustion for self-replicating technologies.
 
In his petition for a writ of certiorari, Vernon Bowman contends the case merits a review by the Supreme Court because the federal circuit’s ruling conflicts with the high court’s precedents and is of “great importance to a wide swath of this country’s economy.”

Monsanto sued Bowman in October 2007 alleging patent infringement after it learned the Knox County farmer was growing more soybeans than his purchases from the company could generate.

Bowman typically planted two soybean crops during the season. For the first crop, he purchased Pioneer Hi-Bred soybean seeds from Pioneer Hi-Bred, a Monsanto licensed seed producer. For the second crop, which was planted later in the season and therefore was considered riskier, Bowman purchased commodity seeds from a local grain elevator.

He subsequently discovered that like the seeds he purchased from Pioneer for the first crop, the commodity seeds were not harmed or killed by the glyphosate-based herbicide. Also, unlike his first crop, Bowman saved seeds harvested from his second crop for replanting of additional late-season crops in later years.

Monsanto had developed and patented the biotechnology that made the seeds resistant to the herbicide, including the company’s Roundup brand herbicide. The seed producer argued its patent rights were not exhausted because of conditions in a licensing agreement, which Bowman signed, and because the protection is applicable to each generation of soybeans that contains the patented trait.

The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana granted Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment in June 2009, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed in September 2011.    



 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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