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

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. Did someone not tell people who have access to the Chevy Volts that it has a gas engine and will run just like a normal car? The batteries give the Volt approximately a 40 mile range, but after that the gas engine will propel the vehicle either directly through the transmission like any other car, or gas engine recharges the batteries depending on the conditions.

  2. Catholic, Lutheran, even the Baptists nuzzling the wolf! http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-documents-reveal-obama-hhs-paid-baptist-children-family-services-182129786-four-months-housing-illegal-alien-children/ YET where is the Progressivist outcry? Silent. I wonder why?

  3. Thank you, Honorable Ladies, and thank you, TIL, for this interesting interview. The most interesting question was the last one, which drew the least response. Could it be that NFP stamps are a threat to the very foundation of our common law American legal tradition, a throwback to the continental system that facilitated differing standards of justice? A throwback to Star Chamber’s protection of the landed gentry? If TIL ever again interviews this same panel, I would recommend inviting one known for voicing socio-legal dissent for the masses, maybe Welch, maybe Ogden, maybe our own John Smith? As demographics shift and our social cohesion precipitously drops, a consistent judicial core will become more and more important so that Justice and Equal Protection and Due Process are yet guiding stars. If those stars fall from our collective social horizon (and can they be seen even now through the haze of NFP opinions?) then what glue other than more NFP decisions and TRO’s and executive orders -- all backed by more and more lethally armed praetorians – will prop up our government institutions? And if and when we do arrive at such an end … will any then dare call that tyranny? Or will the cost of such dissent be too high to justify?

  4. This is easily remedied, and in a fashion that every church sacrificing incense for its 501c3 status and/or graveling for government grants should have no problem with ..... just add this statue, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capitoline_she-wolf_Musei_Capitolini_MC1181.jpg entitled, "Jesus and Cousin John learn to suckle sustenance from the beloved Nanny State." Heckfire, the ACLU might even help move the statue in place then. And the art will certainly reflect our modern life, given the clergy's full-bellied willingness to accede to every whim of the new caesars. If any balk, just threaten to take away their government milk … they will quiet down straightaway, I assure you. Few, if any of them, are willing to cross the ruling elite as did the real J&J

  5. Tina has left the building.

ADVERTISEMENT