ILNews

Supreme Court’s ruling for Monsanto described as good decision

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  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.

ADVERTISEMENT