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July 30, 2007
Volume 85, Number 31
p. 15

Intellectual Property

U.S. patent office rejects four patents on Monsanto crops

Bette Hileman

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) has rejected four Monsanto patents related to genetically modified crops, saying the claims are not new or are too obvious for patenting. All four patents involve genes in seeds engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.

Last year, the Public Patent Foundation petitioned PTO to reexamine these patents, because Monsanto is using them to "intimidate and sue" U.S. farmers, says PPF Executive Director Daniel Ravicher. PPF is a nonprofit legal services group that describes itself as working to protect the public from harm caused by abuse of the patent system.

Monsanto has pursued scores of patent infringement lawsuits against U.S. farmers, usually producers of Roundup Ready soybeans, Ravicher says. By the end of 2006, he says, the company had filed about 100 lawsuits against farmers, most for saving genetically modified seeds grown one year to plant during the next season. In addition, Monsanto had settled out of court with hundreds of farmers it accused of patent and contract violations with the company.

Monsanto has already responded to three of PTO's patent rejections, says Geri M. Berdak, director of Monsanto public affairs. Rejection of patent claims is not unusual, she says, adding that it frequently happens during the reexamination process. "We continue to believe there is no basis for rejecting the patents," she says. Even if PTO eventually revokes the patents, Monsanto could appeal those actions in court.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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