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January 9, 2008

Government & Policy

Supreme Court Backs Monsanto In Seed Patent Case

Justices uphold lower appeals court ruling in dispute over reuse of patented biotech seeds

Glenn Hess

The Supreme Court, without comment, ruled in favor of Monsanto on Jan. 7 and upheld a lower court ruling that penalized a Mississippi farmer for reusing genetically modified soybean seeds.

Monsanto was awarded $375,000 in damages after successfully suing Homan McFarling in 1999 for violating its patents by replanting Roundup Ready soybean seeds.

McFarling saved 1,500 bushels of seeds from his 1998 soybean crop and planted those seeds in 1999. He did the same thing the following year, saving soybeans from his 1999 crop and planting them in 2000.

Monsanto sued, arguing that a technology agreement the farmer signed restricted him to using the seeds for only one growing season. McFarling's lawyers argued that patent law does not allow Monsanto "to control the future use of seeds that were a natural product of the seeds that he had bought and planted."

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., sided with Monsanto, ruling that the "the licensed and patented product (the first-generation seeds) and the goods made by the licensed product (the second-generation seeds) are nearly identical copies."

The Supreme Court's affirmation of the lower court rulings helps ensure "continued investment into the kind of research and development necessary to keep growers on the cutting edge of productivity," Monsanto said in a statement.

"We believe strong intellectual property protection will encourage the investment needed to maintain continued crop improvement," the company stated.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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