ILNews

Supreme Court’s ruling for Monsanto described as good decision

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Supreme Court of the United States decision upholding the patent owned by Monsanto Co. was surprising only in its unanimous affirmation.

In Vernon Hugh Bowman v. Monsanto Co. et al., 11-796, the justices held that the doctrine of patent exhaustion does not permit a farmer to reproduce genetically modified seeds without the patent holder’s permission. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion for the court.

“In the case at hand, Bowman planted Monsanto’s patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article,” Kagan wrote. “Patent exhaustion provides no haven for that conduct.”

The decision could indicate that the court ended up having second thoughts on accepting the case for review, said Mark Janis, director of the Center for Intellectual Property Research at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

When Bowman petitioned for a writ of certiorari in December 2011, the solicitor general advised the court to deny the petition. The United States maintained that the petitioner’s primary argument – that the Federal Circuit’s “conditional sale” doctrine was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s patent-exhaustion decisions – was not properly presented in this case.

The high court granted the writ anyway which, in cases involving patent law, usually indicates the Supreme Court will reverse the Federal Circuit’s decision, Janis said. However, the unanimous affirmation might be read as the court agreeing with the solicitor general’s view.

For eight years, Bowman, an Indiana farmer, planted two soybean crops. For his first soybean crop, Bowman purchased seeds created by Monsanto that were genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup Ready herbicide. He also signed the agreement limiting him to planting the seeds for one season only.

However, for a second crop planted late in the growing season, Bowman went to the grain elevator and bought commodity seeds. He discovered these seeds contained the same herbicide-resistant trait.

Monsanto sued, claiming Bowman was infringing on its patent. Bowman countered with a patent-exhaustion defense, arguing he was using the seeds in the normal way and allowing Monsanto to retain its patent right would “create an impermissible exception to the exhaustion doctrine.”

The Supreme Court ruled Bowman was making additional copies of patented soybeans without Monsanto’s permission, an activity that falls outside the protections of patent exhaustion.

“It is good to see that they confirmed that a plant reproducing a patented gene is something protectable,” said intellectual property attorney Jay Sanders, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. “I think in this case, they did a pretty good job of reading the facts before them.”

The court was careful to point out that its ruling was limited to the situation presented by Bowman in saving and replicating seeds. It does not apply to every case involving a self-replicating product.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  2. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  3. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

  4. Dear Fan, let me help you correct the title to your post. "ACLU is [Left] most of the time" will render it accurate. Just google it if you doubt that I am, err, "right" about this: "By the mid-1930s, Roger Nash Baldwin had carved out a well-established reputation as America’s foremost civil libertarian. He was, at the same time, one of the nation’s leading figures in left-of-center circles. Founder and long time director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Baldwin was a firm Popular Fronter who believed that forces on the left side of the political spectrum should unite to ward off the threat posed by right-wing aggressors and to advance progressive causes. Baldwin’s expansive civil liberties perspective, coupled with his determined belief in the need for sweeping socioeconomic change, sometimes resulted in contradictory and controversial pronouncements. That made him something of a lightning rod for those who painted the ACLU with a red brush." http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/roger-baldwin-2/ "[George Soros underwrites the ACLU' which It supports open borders, has rushed to the defense of suspected terrorists and their abettors, and appointed former New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board." http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1237 "The creation of non-profit law firms ushered in an era of progressive public interest firms modeled after already established like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") and the American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") to advance progressive causes from the environmental protection to consumer advocacy." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_lawyering

  5. Mr. Foltz: Your comment that the ACLU is "one of the most wicked and evil organizations in existence today" clearly shows you have no real understanding of what the ACLU does for Americans. The fact that the state is paying out so much in legal fees to the ACLU is clear evidence the ACLU is doing something right, defending all of us from laws that are unconstitutional. The ACLU is the single largest advocacy group for the US Constitution. Every single citizen of the United States owes some level of debt to the ACLU for defending our rights.

ADVERTISEMENT