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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. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  2. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

  3. She must be a great lawyer

  4. Ind. Courts - "Illinois ranks 49th for how court system serves disadvantaged" What about Indiana? A story today from Dave Collins of the AP, here published in the Benton Illinois Evening News, begins: Illinois' court system had the third-worst score in the nation among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, according to new rankings. Illinois' "Justice Index" score of 34.5 out of 100, determined by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, is based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues. Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9. At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana. ILB: That puts Indiana at 46th worse. More from the story: Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores. Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses. The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/11/ind_courts_illi_1.html

  5. A very thorough opinion by the federal court. The Rooker-Feldman analysis, in particular, helps clear up muddy water as to the entanglement issue. Looks like the Seventh Circuit is willing to let its district courts cruise much closer to the Indiana Supreme Court's shorelines than most thought likely, at least when the ADA on the docket. Some could argue that this case and Praekel, taken together, paint a rather unflattering picture of how the lower courts are being advised as to their duties under the ADA. A read of the DOJ amicus in Praekel seems to demonstrate a less-than-congenial view toward the higher echelons in the bureaucracy.

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