The US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Monsanto Monday over an Indiana farmer accused of having pirated the genetically-modified crops developed by the agribusiness giant.
The high court was unanimous in its decision, ruling that laws limiting patents do “not permit a farmer to reproduce patented seeds through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission.”
The crux of the argument was over “patent exhaustion” which states that, after a patented item has been sold, the purchaser has “‘the right to use (or) sell’ the thing as he sees fit.”
But the court’s 10-page opinion says patent exhaustion only applies to the actual item sold — in this case the seed itself — and still prevents anyone from making, using and selling copies of the item.
The ruling gave Monsanto shares a bounce after falling more than one per cent in opening trade Monday. At 10:20 (1420 GMT) they were at $107.59, down 0.5 per cent.
In a lawsuit filed in 2007, Monsanto had accused Vernon Hugh Bowman, a farmer, of infringing on its intellectual property rights by replanting, cultivating and selling herbicide-resistant soybean seeds it spent more than a decade developing.
The patented seed, which allows farmers to aerially spray Monsanto-made Roundup herbicide over their entire fields, was invented in 1996 and is now grown by more than 90 per cent of the 275,000 US soybean farmers.
The farmer, 75, said he had respected his contract with Monsanto and purchased new Roundup Ready seeds each year for his first planting.
But he said hard times forced him to purchase a cheaper mixture of seeds from a grain elevator starting in 1999, which he used for his second planting.
The mixture included Roundup Ready soybeans, which Bowman was able to isolate and replant from 2000 to 2007.
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