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Posts Tagged: "Bowman"

Trace Contamination by Patented Seeds Insufficient to Establish Standing to Challenge Patents

Flying under the AMP v. Myriad radar recently was Federal Circuit’s Organic Seed Growers v. Monsanto. In Organic Seed Growers, the Federal Circuit denied declaratory relief to a band of more than 60 farmers, seed vendors, and agricultural organizations from California to Florida (and even Canada) seeking to invalidate 23 of Monsanto’s patents relating to various technologies for genetically modified seeds. The band of agriculturists grows, uses, or sells conventional seeds that do not incorporate Monsanto’s technologies. Many have organic certifications, and generally eschew transgenic seeds and glyphosate-based herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup® herbicide.

No Quanta of Solace for Farmer Bowman: Unlicensed Planting of Patented Seed Infringing Use, Not Patent Exhaustion*

n the case of Bowman v. Monsanto Co., Farmer Bowman may have believed that the “third time” would be “charm.” In two prior cases, Monsanto Co. v. Scruggs[1] and Monsanto Co. v. McFarling,[2] the Federal Circuit had ruled in favor of Monsanto, the owner of the patented Roundup Ready® soybeans, and against Farmer Scruggs and Farmer McFarling. Even so, Farmer Bowman, as probably did his legal counsel, may have believed that the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc.[3] would undermine the Federal Circuit’s view that patent exhaustion didn’t apply to Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® soybeans. But in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Circuit’s 2011 ruling[4] that Farmer Bowman’s unlicensed planting of these patented Roundup Ready® soybeans (sold for commodity use only) was an infringing use that was not subject to the doctrine of patent exhaustion. Alas, Farmer Bowman found no solace in Quanta.

Sowing the seeds of wrath: Doctrine of Patent Exhaustion Could Not Save Farmer from Liability for Infringing Monsanto’s Patents on Genetically Modified Seeds

Some had hoped that the Court would use Bowman as an opportunity to address the extent of a patent owner’s monopoly over other self-replicating technologies in the areas of biotechnology and information technology, such as human cell lines or computer programs. Certainly, the Court hinted at the possibility of situations where the patented article’s self-replication is truly outside the purchaser’s control, or where the self-replication is an essential step in using the patented article for another authorized purpose. The Court, however, cautiously declined to extend its holding in Bowman to those situations. The decision in Monsanto is intended to be fact-specific and carry slight ramification. Indeed, the Court’s unanimous decision ended with a significant caveat that the holding is limited, “addressing the situation before [the Court], rather than every one involving a self-replicating product.”

Bowman v. Monsanto: Striking at the Roots of Innovation

Bowman v Monsanto involves a farmer who figured out how to get Monsanto’s patented seeds cheaper from a grain elevator than from the company. I won’t attempt to delve into the intricacies of the litigation or the doctrine of patent exhaustion, but do want to consider a larger point. What happens if our innovators lose confidence in the patent system? Some apparently believe this is a desirable outcome