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Monsanto wins soyabean patent case

July 19, 2013

On 13 May, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Vernon Hugh Bowman had violated biotech giant Monsanto’s patent on soyabeans by planting the offspring of those soyabeans without permission, Soyatech reports.

On 13 May, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Vernon Hugh Bowman had violated biotech giant Monsanto’s patent on soyabeans by planting the offspring of those soyabeans without permission, Soyatech reports. Justice Elena Kagan said: “The question in this case is whether a farmer who buys patented seeds may reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission … We hold that he may not.”

The case was closely watched by the biotechnology industry and beyond. Supporters of Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, from Microsoft to the University of Missouri, said a decision for Bowman would have struck at the core of Monsanto’s business – its rigorously protected seed technologies – and could have had a massive chilling effect on a wide range of research across a range of fields.

Hans Sauer, deputy general counsel for BIO – the biotechnology industry’s trade group – said the case “confirmed, unanimously, that patent law applies to any product that’s capable of being replicated, either by planting by seed, or a bacterial cell line, or a preparation of DNA, in the same way it applies to widgets or cellphones … If you want two, you have to buy two.”
However, Kagan emphasised that: “Our holding today is limited – addressing the situation before us, rather than every one involving a self-replicating product.”

She added: “We recognise that such inventions are becoming ever more prevalent, complex and diverse. In another case, the article’s self-replication might occur outside the purchaser’s control. Or it might be a necessary but incidental step in using the item for another purpose.”


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