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The Supreme Court To Rule On Monsanto Seed Patents

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the corn-of-the-people dept.

Patents 372

Fluffeh writes "Can a farmer commit patent infringement just by planting soybeans he bought on the open market? This week, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on the question. The Court is pondering an appeals court decision saying that such planting can, in fact, infringe patents. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled, as it had on several previous occasions, that patent exhaustion did not cover second-generation seeds. The Supreme Court has now asked the Solicitor General, the official in charge of representing the Obama administration before the Court, to weigh in on the case."

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Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581647)

Monsanto is about to realize a dream: The absolute ownership of the food supply.

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581659)

Or find out that is has been building castles in the sky...

Keep in mind, that for Monsato to have such utter control means that the government is giving that control away. I don't think that the US government wants to give up that sort of power.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581687)

You forget the USA government = corporations government. After all they can't bite the hand that feeds them: Occasionally groan for appearances to get some votes. Same for the supreme corp^h^h^h court.

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581717)

They already have

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Informative)

Nugoo (1794744) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581787)

This word gets thrown around a lot, but you Americans really are approaching fascism [wiktionary.org] .

A political regime, having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place, repression of criticism or opposition, a leader cult and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights.

As far as I can tell, the only thing you're missing is the leader cult.

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

DaHat (247651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581855)

Um... yes we do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY [youtube.com]

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

DaHat (247651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581875)

Not to mention http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HMByO1RA4M [youtube.com] ... or the 2008 Barack-Opolis and most of thse there.

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Interesting)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582195)

What you are seeing there is the election promises of 2008 and the people's aspirations of actually fostering positive change. Ask anyone today if they feel the same as when that video was made and I think you'd hear a resounding "no". It wasn't the personality that was the cult, it was the idea/dream of finally having someone who might actually try to change things for the better. Most if not all of the people are probably quite disillusioned with the campaign Obama at this point, and have come to the realization that the Obama in office wasn't strong enough to make the change. I honestly believe in the beginning he was trying very hard to be bi-partisan, but he's just been worn down so much at this point that he's just part of the petulant system of two party politics.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

sg_oneill (159032) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582281)

Um... yes we do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY [youtube.com]

If you REALLY think political campaigning from an oposition party in a democracy (and yes, the democrats where not the incumbent party at the time) is a sign of fascism, I truly believe your an amazingly confused person.

Re:Culmination of a dream (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581889)

As far as I can tell, the only thing you're missing is the leader cult.

Given their last bunch of leaders... Obama, too polar, you either love him or hate him, sort of the Apple of the political world. Bush W, even Americans knew he had more teeth than IQ. Clinton, bit too liberal to make for a leader cult, also lost his chance by getting caught dipping his cigar into the local ashtray - big no-no for the bible belt. Bush Senior, had a rockin chance with close to 90% approval ratings, blew it by making new taxes and being caught up in the econimic slump. Regan, elected too early before Americans were really ready for a leader cult - was elected in a time when being "American" still meant working hard, taking it on the chin and wearing bowboy hats.

Maybe the next election, one comes along, though Obama will still be much too polarizing of the population and from what I have seen, none of the other candidates really stand a chance - too old, too dumb, too radical or too dumb - do you see what I did there?

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582033)

"Obama is the Apple of the political world"

Hmmmmm the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

Re:Culmination of a dream (2)

avajcovec (717275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582069)

No no, see, that is the leader cult. Through propaganda promoting democracy as a political ideal, the people are convinced that they are the ones with power in the system. They have been taught that their choice between two corporate-vetted figureheads is meaningful. Every time they become fed up with the current leadership they think, well, next time we'll get it right. The leader cult is going strong, it's just that the "leader" is the belief in the power of the people to change things within the system as it stands.

Democracy may be great at certain smaller scales, but when it gets too large it's just mob rule, and mobs are easily manipulated.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

Howitzer86 (964585) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582087)

The simple fact that the office of the Presidency is seen as so important... and by virtue of the great power he welds... demonstrates that its only a matter of time.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

intok (2605693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582003)

Yes, that is true, but we can't use that term as due to the US education system being so bad the general public doesn't associate it with Mussolini but instead think that you mean Hitler and the Nazis and the holocaust. Thus they gloss over and ignore you as a nutcase.

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582043)

A farmer would actually already inferring on patents if they would even use the seed that is left over after the harvest.
These seeds are still intellectual property of monsatu

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582147)

We do have a Cult of Obama: He is faultless and can do no wrong according to Obama sycophants e.g. "President Obama doesn't have the power to [....]" Just fill in the blank...these Obamabots won't blame him, but will Blame Bush for for the very same thing, or anything else at all, while giving Obama all the slack.

I find it very odd that even here on /. that you get modded down for criticizing Obama's evolving dictatorial powers, including the Constitution shredding NDAA bill he signed into law which can indefinitely detain US citizens. He is even more traitorous than Bush was. Yet these same Obama "cultists" like him, will vote for him, despite him taking their rights away. It's the greatest hoodwinking in most American's sleepy, dream-filled, distracted, entertainment-centered lives.

insulting (4, Funny)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582235)

....but you Americans really are approaching fascism

That is insulting. Everyone knows that we achieved fascism under Pres. Bush. We're just not sure which one.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581981)

Isn't the former head of Monsanto the honcho of the FDA now? So there's that.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581665)

Monsanto is the devil, and farmers sold their souls to it for temporary edge over competition. Now, they get no more money than in the past. I would even argue, they get less money as more food floods the market.

The devil is laughing his ass off.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1, Interesting)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581671)

I hate to side with Monsanto here, but...

If I built a machine that could replicate anything, then the first person that bought it could just use it to replicate the machine itself and my patent would be worthless. Instead, they could replicate anything but my machine (violating others patents no doubt) without violating my patent. This is not the same case as the farmer that finds stray Monsanto crops in his field and then has to pay Monsanto (which I think is ridiculous and evil).

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581747)

Since beginning of time, if I bought( or got a hold of) a seed, planted and nursed it it would produce more seeds which can in their turn be planted and nursed. This is the definition of a seed.

If Monsanto has issues with this, then they need to genetically modify the seed (or plant that it gives birth to) so that it will only produce one generation.

If Monsanto wants to challenge the whole reason we became agricultural societies instead of hunter gatherers then I guess that is just in their business DNA.

  But if you the people allow them to get away with it, then you the people are morons.

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Interesting)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581805)

I am not entirely certain if we are arguing against or past each other, but I will respond. This case is about if Monsanto seeds are eligible for patent exhaustion due to self-replication, not if they should be able to get away with patenting these things in the first place, nor if they can force anyone who accidentally grows them to pay royalties. The court is in a tricky situation concerning self-replicating patentable objects. I can see why they ruled the way they did (expressed in my example above). Given the recent ruling in Prometheus, I could see the Supreme court invalidating Monsanto's patents and would have no problem with that. That is not what this case is about though.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Funny)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581929)

I am not entirely certain if we are arguing against or past each other, but I will respond.

No, I clicked "Reply to this" of your post. But due to my sometimes incredibly short attention span I wrote a post that wasn't really a reply at all.

Is that a bird outside my window?

[Session lost]

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581991)

You think you have it rough now, wait a few years until the Monsanto genetically modified birds start appearing at your window (deposit royalties into the beak on a per song basis).

My point was that it didn't seem like we were arguing the same things. My point was narrowly directed to the logic and arguments used in this case. Your seemed to be arguing something much bigger. If you read beyond the headline (which is unfortunately misleading), will find that the case is deciding a pretty narrow point. Namely, are seeds self-replicating and if so, does that nullify patent exhaustion.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

ffoiii (226358) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581811)

The problem is not that "the people" allow them to get away with it, but that nine particularly selected individuals will make this decision based on a long history of weighing some rights over other rights, with a recent disposition (over the last hundred years or so), of devaluing individual rights over the rights of corporations. And the 535 other individuals that could overrule this decision will not and do not because their jobs depend on the people who benefit from these decisions.

Re:Culmination of a dream (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581899)

"The people" can eliminate a law at any time by refusing to convict anyone. Who cares what the Supreme Court say if you can't get a conviction in a real court?

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Insightful)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582089)

Terrorists! No jury trial for them.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Informative)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582233)

> And the 535 other individuals that could overrule this decision will not

Mod this one insightful. That's the best line that I've seen on this page so far.

Folks, whether you're conservative or progressive, the bottom line is that that Congress is the real problem. Whether Dem or Repub, it's not even that they're in someone's pocket (which they are) so much as it is that they're ignorant and lazy. Just plain lazy.

Don't agree with Supreme Court decisions? There's a mechanism in the US Constitution to address that. (1) the Senate can impeach the justices and (2) if worse comes to worst, a constitutional amendment can fix a bad supreme court decision. Neither is likely to happen because Congress would rather sip champagne and have face time on CSpan (I LOVE that ... making speeches to an empty chamber, but you don't see that because Congress won't permit the cameras to show the vacant seats!).

Think about all of the concern about Congress almost passing Yet Still Another Bad Copyright or IP Law(tm). You can ask these Congresscritters if they understand the Internet and they'll BOAST about the fact that they don't. When it comes to seeds, most of them have never done actual, hands on work and can't even maintain a plant bed in front of their house, much less run a working farm.

And it's our fault. We keep electing the same entrenched morons, over and over, simply because they're of our party. The PRIMARIES are where we ought to be focusing, but because the incumbent has so much money and so many other advantages, he/she can swamp the opponent with negative ads ... and he/she gets re-elected.

Turn the TV off. Quit watching and listening to the ads. You'll probably find that you can actually talk to the candidate (especially for a house race, which is more local). But if YOU continue to elect the same worthless meatsacks every 2, 4 and 6 years (or even worse, don't even bother to vote), then you have only yourself to blame.

Hate to be harsh this early in the morning, but all this talk about encroaching fascism and other stuff is nonsense. Oh, it could happen ... but it'll only do so because every one of us continue to live in the box and won't make the effort to think (and work) outside of it.

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Interesting)

kenshin33 (1694322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581841)

If Monsanto has issues with this, then they need to genetically modify the seed (or plant that it gives birth to) so that it will only produce one generation.

ever heard of Terminator seeds [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581969)

Is that Safe For Work?

Sorry, just couldn't help myself.
Yes, I heard of it just not by that name. As someone already stated, they are a lousy idea. But I think they are a lousy idea that farmers could understand, and hence there would not be much of a market I imagine.
And if there is a market, then the customer is a moron. Which sort of brings me back to the intention of my original post.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

kenshin33 (1694322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582073)

I'm no expert ... but if something like this were to used in the wild, can't it lead to a very dangerous situation?? (contamination of other plants??)
there will be at least someone who'd buy it (out of curiosity/dumb ... wasn't told .... etc)

Nah, I preferred the Sarah Conor Cronicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582061)

ever heard of Terminator seeds [wikipedia.org] ?

I preferred the Sarah Conor Cronicles

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582099)

Terminator seeds only work if they are not crossbreeding. But in most cases, it is about non-Monsanto seeds crossbreeding with Monsanto ones. And if the courts determine, that Monsanto had a patent on those plants too, then it's Monsanto's responsibility to keep the seeds from crossbreeding.
No farmer not in a business relationship with Monsanto should be forced to throw some of their products away just because they are contaminated with Monsanto's patented DNA. It wasn't the farmer who planted the Monsanto seeds in the first place. So it's Monsanto negligently damaging the farmer's harvest.

There is a solution though. If Monsanto insists on claiming patent infrigment on those plants and their seeds which are the result of crossbreeding due to pollution of neighbouring non-Monsanto fields, and if this claim is uphold, they should have the responsibility to buy all plants and seeds which are contaminated with their patented DNA at the market prices for the incontaminated one until they manage it to create such seeds that the resulting plants don't pollute non-Monsanto ones.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

kenshin33 (1694322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582151)

I was merely pointing to the fact that it crossed their -- twisted -- minds.
I do agree with what you stated. If -- assuming not just the legal validity of those patents -- the farmer had nothing to do with the presence of these crops on his field, he bears no responsibility whatsoever. The least Monsanto can do is as you said, buy the contaminated crops at market value.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581901)

If Monsanto has issues with this, then they need to genetically modify the seed (or plant that it gives birth to) so that it will only produce one generation.

Monsanto bought a company that was developing "terminator seeds" and the backlash was so widespread and fierce that they've barely talked about it since.
Partly because a UN Convention on Biological Diversity created a defacto global moratorium on use of the seeds.
Canada's Government tried to challenge the moratorium, but the backlash from the Canadian people was so widespread and fierce...
You get the idea.

Terminator seeds are a shitty idea.
They're DRM for seeds. Except the DRM can infect other plants.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582125)

Rootkit for seeds, TubeSteak, rootkit for seeds ;)

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581933)

Monsanto has (in the past) already created genetically modified strains of corn which are only able to produce one generation. This ensures that the farmer is required to come back and purchase more new seeds.

In turn, the farmer is able to produce a crop which yields significantly more bushels per acre than he would be able to achieve using non-modified corn seeds.

Check out the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma." You'll learn more than what you ever wanted to know about the agriculture industry.

Re:Culmination of a dream (3, Funny)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582037)

I predict future generations will think of Monsanto like we thought of Microsoft, and call them Mon$anto on webforums, all while eating a good serving Breakfeast serials developed on M$ Corn Version 11. They will have to be careful, because it is incompatible with M$ Corn v. 10 products, not to mention the "Secured Metabolism" feature that would almost certainly cause the Blue Face of Death if you tried including some Open Genome Food into your diet.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581813)

... my patent would be worthless.

Do the words 'intellectual property theft' mean anything. Slashdot discusses patents and copyrights enough for every poster to realize they are a government assisted/enforced monopoly. Yes, anybody can build your machine: You gave the plans to the patent office. No: Your patent will not be worthless. You will need big-money to manufacture your machine. It will benefit that investor to protect your patent also. That is what Mosanto is doing.

As far as I can tell, Mosanta is claiming all other soybean sales cause contamination and violate its patent. As the first poster revealed, this makes the soybean farmer hostage to a user license from Mosanta.

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581869)

Just because you give plans for a patentable object to the patent office, it doesn't grant anyone else a license to build it and profit off it.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582109)

I believe poster said "you can build your own machine" instead of "you may build your own machine" advisedly. They are completely separate things.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581915)

Ok -- analogy critique

You're suggesting Monsanto built a self-replicating machine, which is totally false. If it was true, Monsanto could take a few train cars of pure carbon, some cylinders of pure hydrogen and oxygen, and a few other trace elements -- and produce seeds. When Monsanto can use air and charcoal to make seeds, maybe then we should talk about patents.

At present however, it is indisputable that Monsanto did NOT build a self-replicating machine. Monsanto took a pre-existing semi-self-replicating machine (semi in the sense that it replicates with the help of other like machines, mixing their designs in the process), a machine that it absolutely can NOT produce from the ground up -- a machine that everyone already had for free or next to free. It made a tweak to that machine, and then released it into the wild with all the others. When the originals and the tweaked version intermingle as would naturally occur, Monsanto claims ownership over the whole shebang.

Which is bullshit. Maybe its fair for Monsanto to have its own patent covered version of the seed (emphasize "maybe" here), but the fact that its modifications find their way into other plants is not a basis for Monsanto gaining ownership of the other plants, its a basis for the people who want the originals to sue for nuisance. But in our bassackwards world, Monsanto's nuisance liability becomes its cash cow.

Re:Culmination of a dream (2)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581951)

First off, it is the Court that suggested the Monsanto built a self-replicating machine. My analogy was to bring out the basic principle they were arguing. Again, this case is not about whether or not Monsanto's seeds can be patented. It is not about whether or not Monsanto can force people to pay them royalties.

Just to reiterate for all the slashdotters who did nothing more than read the headline, It is not about whether Monsanto can patent seeds.

It is about whether or not a seed is self-replicating and if so, whether or not patent exhaustion applies.

Now, as for your arguments, just because a replicating machine requires outside materials does not diminish the act of replication. If I built a machine to replicate anything, it would still presumably need raw materials. The other arguments wouldn't apply to this case. For what it's worth, I agree with you that Monsanto should be stripped of these patents.

Re:Culmination of a dream (2)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582083)

My point was that Monsanto did not build the machine at all. It simply doesn't have the technology. So for anyone to suggest that it does sort of misses the point.

To put this in slashdot-bad-car-analogy terms, its like Monsanto went into its garage, found a truck it had parked there but did not invent, build, or create, sprayed it with mud, then drove around town letting the mud splatter on other pre-existing cars it neither built, created, nor owned, and then goes around claiming an ownership right in any vehicle it soiled merely because they had its mud was on them.

Back to the seed thing, my point about raw materials was not related to the fact that seeds need raw materials, it was to point out that Monsanto cannot take raw materials, run them through its lab, and get seeds. What Monsanto does is use the pre-existing machinery it neither built, created, nor owns, to do all of its replication. Yes, it throws in a tweak, but Monsanto cannot make seeds from scratch, so it is completely unlike the person who builds a self-replicating machine in your example. It is like the person who paints the self-replicating machine and then somehow thinks it owns all the machines.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582091)

and darn it, I'm too tired to use its and it's correctly in either of my posts, nor completely edit a sentence after changing its structure.

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582175)

I agree that Monsanto should not have been granted a patent on these seeds for the same reasons you do (they didn't take an inventive non-obvious step). At most I would grant them a patent on the process of creating their seeds, but not on the seeds themselves. However, I disagree that the seeds are not de facto self-replicating. With each generation they pass on the gene. Yes, it takes some outside intervention, but without the first seed, the second generation having that specific mutation is exceedingly small.

As for the car analogy, I would replace the mud with a golf ball like cratered coating, engineered to cause greater fuel efficiency (one of the best Mythbusters ever!). Then when someone else exactly duplicated your coating you could claim to already own the patent on that coating (but not the concept). Now, if removing the coating would ruin the car, then I guess they own royalties for the coating if they want to drive the car. The point is that they did some engineering and the farmer in this case was testing the seeds to make certain he was planting only the second generation Monsanto seeds (as opposed to the non-engineered seeds they mixed with). If you hold that the seeds used their DNA to replicate themselves (even imperfectly), then I think the court's logic holds. I can certainly see the argument that procreation != replication and that does muddy it.

Re:Culmination of a dream (5, Interesting)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582029)

I'm sure there's some governing body for Native Americans - they should patent corn and sue Monsanto for all they're worth. It took them thousands of years to "invent" corn and Monsanto replicates and resells this invention without paying any compensation to the inventors.

In all seriousness, corn is probably the most impressively modified plant next to bananas. In its original form it was pretty much just a grain (corn, in fact, is a generic term for grain that's been part of the English language before any English speaker laid eyes on maize).

If any invention is going on here, it's the process by which the seeds are made. A process that's not too disimilar from the way the Native Americans made corn or how Mendal manipulated peas and flowers and whatnot. But what Monsanto is doing is closer to what Mendel did than the Natives. At least with maize its almost wholly different from the original plant. It's like the difference between a great dane and a chihuahua. I live in a rural area and I'm surrounded by things grown from Monsanto seeds. I recognize them as plants that have existed far before Monsanto. They would have to at least start producing something that struck me as a 'new' plant for me to even consider the possibility that it could be patentable, but then I'd still be wary since, as you said, no one builds seeds from scratch.

Re:Culmination of a dream (2)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582077)

Totally agree with you. I hope the Supreme Court has a chance to hear a case on that (this one doesn't address your arguments). If you extend the Prometheus ruling, which basically said that if you take something natural and do nothing more than act upon using it widely known techniques, then there is nothing to patent (in their case it was the process that was being patented, but I think the logic could translate). For Monsanto, they took something of nature and modified it in an obvious way. At most, the process they use to modify the seeds could be patented, but I don't see the end result, which is still just a seed, being patent eligible. I guess that is why I don't work for the USPTO.

Re:Culmination of a dream (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582075)

Yes. Even in Australia I've witnessed a case of a farmer being sued because Monsanto seeds blew into his crop, and they sued him.

IMO he should have been able to sue them for ruining his organic crop with their GM seeds.

Re:Culmination of a dream (4, Insightful)

J Story (30227) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582291)

I've wondered why farmers can't do that too. Why couldn't a farmer call up Monsanto and insist they get their garbage out of his field?

Re:Culmination of a dream (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582263)

If I were Monsanto I would make sure that the one thing it could not replicate was itself ... and didnt they actually do that?

I thought Monsanto seed was modified so that the plant was not fertile, and so forcing people to buy more seed ..?

Re:Culmination of a dream (3, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581701)

Monsanto is about to realize a dream: The absolute ownership of the food supply.

The article makes for a scary reading!
"However, farmers remain free to sell the soybeans they grow in the commodity market,".
The implication here is that Monsanto may also eventually control farmer's ability to sell soybeans after they buy, plant and grow them?

Re:Culmination of a dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581853)

They already do... farmers are licensed to sell them in the commodity market but cant sell them to someone that is going to replant them.

Re:Culmination of a dream (2)

qeveren (318805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581963)

Sure. "We revoke your license." Now that crop is your last crop. Ta-dah!

Not really (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581789)

Even if upheld, they are still beholden to the government. The reason is that patents are something the government is given the power to issue, and thus also something they have the power to take away. There are various reasons they can do so, and they can alter the law to give themselves other reasons they can do so. There is no question they have power over patents, the Constitution gives it to them explicitly.

You'd better believe that trying to cut off food would be something they'd get slapped down for, patents or not. Heck if you want to see control, look at Sysco. They own every grain silo in America more or less. They have all the cereal before it is processed. Yet I'm not worried, it has been that way for a long time. They can't just suddenly say "Guess what? You pay 100x as much or starve." They tried something like that, they'd probably see National Guard units visit their silos to ensure shipments went out as scheduled and the FBI visit their corporate offices.

I'm not saying I think Monsanto's argument is a good one or anything or that they should win, please don't misunderstand. I'm saying this doesn't put them in some position where all of a sudden they control all food and nobody can do anything.

Hell they could easily win, then lose. The Court says "The patent is valid, even for many generations," the the government then says "Because of that, we have to take away the patent."

Make your own decision! (1)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581681)

Now, the Supreme Court has invited the Solicitor General to file briefs expressing the views of the United States in the case.

Supreme court already panders to the government quite a bit (e.g., commerce clause). Now they are going to reach out and ask what ruling the government wants?

Re:Make your own decision! (4, Insightful)

aonic (878715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581737)

There are a lot of fantastical views about the role of the Supreme Court and ones personal interpretation of the Constitution, but as it stands, the SCOTUS is a purely reactive branch. It's not their job to make policy, nor should it be.

Even with the recent Affordable Care Act oral arguments, you heard Supreme Court justices voicing their reluctance to wade through the bill to figure out where to sever the individual mandate. The court was not consulted on the constitutionality of the PATRIOT act or the most recent NDAA before they were passed. Someone has to actively sue (and have standing to sue, under federal law,) to even bring it to their attention. This might not be ideal, since it would be very difficult sue the federal government over indefinite detention while having the standing to do so, but it's how our government works.

On this issue, it makes sense. The SCOTUS is merely asking the other branches of government "hey, there's a problem with your law. How would you solve it?" before writing a precedent-setting decision.

Re:Make your own decision! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581839)

Yes, Yes, Yes and more Yes.

The Supreme Court already wields quite a bit of power. Which is good. Unless it's bad. Or sometimes both at the same time. Which is as it should be in the complex separation of powers.

Asking the Executive branch to present its case/position for the Supreme Court to ponder is a good thing - not pandering.

I may or may not agree with the eventual decision in this case, and I certainly may complain about the outcome, but I'll never complain about any portion of government at least making the attempt to carefully gather information before making an extremely important decision - ESPECIALLY when it concerns something as thoroughly FUCKED up as the patent system.

Re:Make your own decision! (2)

dslbrian (318993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581913)

The courts have painted themselves into this ridiculous corner based on idiotic interpretations of the Constitution. In ascribing to the letter of the law they have completely disregarded the spirit of the law, and in so doing allowed this stupid situation to exist. The fact that patents are granted on a ~20-year duration regardless of field allows companies like Monsanto to lock down the food supply in perpetuity. By contaminating the soybean supply every few years with a new slight derivative, and claiming infringement on natural cross-contamination, they can effectively undercut the patent system and extend their monopoly forever.

Now what do the courts do - they flail about asking other branches for ideas. Seriously? This is the type of gov't / corporation complicity that the 99%ers complain about, and if there is ever another revolution in this country it will be based on stupid crap like this.

Re:Make your own decision! (4, Insightful)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582139)

You're entirely right, except for one thing. Of COURSE the Supreme Court should ask for a VARIETY of input. That's what a court is FOR. To weigh competing legal cases and theories. Sheesh. Whether they BUY the establishment's arguments or not is an entirely different matter, but they should HEAR them.

Vernon Bowman... (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581695)

...should sue for child support.

Could this be a good thing? (4, Insightful)

tick-tock-atona (1145909) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581707)

It's possible that this could be the concrete example of the brokenness of the patent system required to instigate reform. In this case, outlawing this type of genetic patent.

From TFA:

Monsanto has a point. Taking Bowman's argument to its logical conclusion would imply that anyone could buy a single batch of commodity (but still Roundup Ready) soybeans and use it to sell an unlimited number of copies. This would effectively eviscerate Monsanto's patent protection.

Yet Monsanto's position—that planting Monsanto-derived soybeans always requires Monsanto's permission—could also have troubling consequences. In a world where 94 percent of soybeans in circulation are descended from Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds, it might be hard for farmers who didn't want Monsanto's seeds even to buy seeds that were not patent encumbered. Monsanto's position would effectively place the burden on farmers to test seeds they hope to plant in order to ensure they are not covered by any patents.

If the product works as advertised then natural selection will ensure it comes to dominate the population.. how can you litigate against evolution? Surely the only winning move here is not to play?

Re:Could this be a good thing? (4, Interesting)

gizmonic (302697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581755)

In a world where 94 percent of soybeans in circulation are descended from Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds, it might be hard for farmers who didn't want Monsanto's seeds even to buy seeds that were not patent encumbered.

Doesn't that render it close enough to a monopoly for the government to be able to step in and regulate it?

Natural evolution, bigger is usually better, but the bigger the spider, the more likely you are to see and squish it. Sometimes you get too big and it's all over for you.

And if 94% doesn't cut it, let's just pollute that last 6% for them.

Re:Could this be a good thing? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581785)

Doesn't that render it close enough to a monopoly for the government to be able to step in and regulate it?

Government is already regulating it by allowing companies to patent seeds. That's exactly the problem.

Re:Could this be a good thing? (3, Interesting)

Truekaiser (724672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581759)

except that evolution has been making more plants resistant to round-up then Monsanto has made. do they own them even though those same genes were made by nature?
what about the insects and other pests that become resistant? do they own them as well because so far they have ruled that the patent follows the gene no mater what.
if a human developed resistance to roundup would they own the human too?

Re:Could this be a good thing? (2)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581849)

How about just invalidating their patent. The Supremes just ruled in Prometheus that you can't take a naturally occurring object, use a widely known technique on it, and patent it, since there is no creative step. I don't know all the details of the Monsanto seeds, but if all they are doing is taking a soybean and splicing the genes with roundup using widely available techniques, then the argument could be made the there are no grounds for a patent in the first place.

Re:Could this be a good thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581857)

The burden of testing should be on the seller of the seeds.

Tough Call (3, Insightful)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581725)

If you funded the invention of a new crop version and wanted to recoup your hundreds of millions of development costs, you would not want the court to eliminate patent rights for 2nd generation crops.

If on the other hand, you are a farmer, and nearly all beans in your area are patented and then you buying commodity beans from a "feed and seed" place & it means you get mostly patented beans and you plant them, you would not expect to pay a royalty on a "commodity" that you didn't want or order.

This is a tough one. I see the issues on one side and the other.

Re:Tough Call (5, Insightful)

tick-tock-atona (1145909) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581817)

If you funded the invention of a new crop version and wanted to recoup your hundreds of millions of development costs, you would not want the court to eliminate patent rights for 2nd generation crops.

This attitude is a problem. Why should anyone be forced to prop up a poorly thought out business model? Farmers have been manipulating genes for thousands of years.. is there a patent on corn [wikipedia.org] or bananas [corpwatch.org] or any number of domesticated crops? No, because the reward to the farmers was a more productive crop.

Maybe monsanto needs to change the way they do business rather than try to force everyone else to do so.

Re:Tough Call (2)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582097)

If you funded the invention of a new crop version and wanted to recoup your hundreds of millions of development costs, you would not want the court to eliminate patent rights for 2nd generation crops.

So what are you going to do? Arrest the bee for cross pollination? Arrest the wind for blowing your seeds into my yard? If you want to control second generation don't let it out into the wild.

How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (5, Insightful)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581735)

I see it more that the farmer should sue Monsanto for contaminating the seeds he buys - he expects to get regualr bean seeds instead through no fault of his own, the seeds have been contaminated with genetically modified components.

Ruling that any farmer got it (contaminated agriculture) through natural processes as "infringing" is ludicrous.

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581799)

Yep. You would think that it would be so blindingly obvious that we would never have gotten to this point.

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (2)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581847)

Exactly they should be charged with environmental contamination.

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581897)

Is it a natural process? The original farmer bought the Monsanto seed and signed a license agreement not to plant it again next year. Instead, the farmer takes the seeds from his crop and sells them on the open market. So, the farmer who bought the seed cannot replant but if he sells the seeds that he can't replant to someone else they can replant? I guess maybe they should sue the farmer that sold the seeds instead of the one that bought the seeds.

It is most definitely not the case that this poor farmer had his crop naturally infected via cross pollination with Monsanto seed. I hear that argument a lot but it's never the case. This farmer bought Monsanto patented seed from another farmer that bought the seed from Monsanto and signed an agreement not to replant. Buying seeds from another person isn't a "natural process."

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582157)

Just because the farmer was a bloody idiot and signed the agreement, probably under duress, doesn't mean anybody else is bound by the agreement. If the agreement was really only not to plant the second generation seed himself, but he was free to sell same to someone else not bound by the agreement, then Fuck You Monsanto, See You In Hell.

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (5, Informative)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581911)

This is happening in Australia right now. A farmer lost his organic certification due to cross-contamination of his crop from a neighbour that was using GM seeds, and so is suing the neighbour.

http://www.abc.net.au/rural/telegraph/content/2012/s3470966.htm [abc.net.au]

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581927)

It seems that the farmer could sue Monsanto for some form of trespass.

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (2)

intok (2605693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582027)

Problem is Monsanto go around to neighboring farms and sue them for illegally having their GMO plants growing on their land from seeds blown or bird crapped onto their land.

Re:How about ruling Monsanto is contaminating (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582285)

I would argue that whole Nation should sue Monsanto because people should get pure (as possible) food and not genetically manipulated in the lab.
I would argue that it is farmer duty to feed people around them, as many as they do have the food what the grow.
And no one should take away or dismiss that duty by buying that food to somewhere other locations or denying it because some people want to make money.

I would argue that farmer should have 50% from the price what every person pays when they buy the food.

Ugh (5, Insightful)

Formalin (1945560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581757)

Not going to hope for much here, seeing as Monsanto already owns the government.

I'm looking forward to a day when living things cannot be patented - especially things which can self-proliferate in a natural setting. I might need to go to another planet to achieve this, unfortunately.

Title is completely wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581761)

Asking for the views of the solicitor general does not mean they will hear the case.
It statistically increases the probability, but it is not the same thing as granting certiorari (which *would be* agreeing to hear the case)

Intellectual Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39581779)

Can we please stop trying to "protect" people's intellectual property? Nothing good has ever come of it. We have kids getting sued for file sharing, drug companies owning legal monopolies, and now seed companies trying to insist that planting a seed infringes on their patent for a naturally-occurring gene. If we're going to let people patent genes, then we should only try to stop people from selling new organisms with the gene added.

the case has not yet been accepted (4, Interesting)

ffflala (793437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581791)

SCOTUS has taken the unusual step of asking the administration to provide them with an interpretation. This does not necessarily mean SCOTUS will hear the case; they can still reject the petition.

To be more precise, this move indicates that the court has a strong interest in the case. It's still possible that they'll let the circuit decisions stand, if they basically agree with everything they can get their hands on.

That said, I really hope they hear it, and separate patents from seeds. Fuck you for this case, Monsanto.

Compromise? (4, Insightful)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581845)

The Supreme Court recently invalidated patents on natural things. All Monsanto has done so far, is move various natural genes around, from one life-form to another. That is, there are no synthetic genes in the seeds that were patented. I'm aware that the result is new in the sense that the combination didn't exist before, but no part of it is actually new.

Since I'm quite aware that new combinations of other things are quite often patentable, I won't say that gene-manipulated seeds don't automatically deserve to be patented. But it might be reasonable to limit the scope of the patent. Because, historically, most patented things need to be manufactured to exist in quantity; they don't go out and automatically make copies of themselves as seeds can do.

So, my opinion on this matter is that the patents should not be allowed to cover any "copies" of the seed-genes that Naturally "get away" from Monsanto's (and most any other industry's) normal control-of-supply. If Monsanto can lock down cross-pollination of its patented gene combinations, fine (and good luck!). If Monsanto can produce seeds that grow plants that produce nonviable seeds, fine (also, good luck!). Because either of those would be reasonable ways to keep its patented gene-combinations under control. But trying to claim ownership of the results of perfectly Natural gene-spreading processes, NO.

Re:Compromise? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581979)

Even if they patent the "methodology" of making their genetically modified seed... unless someone is producing seeds with that exact same methodology (and no license), it shouldn't be a license violation.

Re:Compromise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582127)

Posting anonymously because I've used 5 mod points in this thread.

You do realise that "methodology" is different to "method" don't you?! And no, as far as anything is concerned you should not be able to patent either (methodology less so than a method).

Re:Compromise? (3, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582017)

The Supreme Court recently invalidated patents on natural things. All Monsanto has done so far, is move various natural genes around, from one life-form to another. That is, there are no synthetic genes in the seeds that were patented.

How is that different than Diamond v. Chakrabarty? Chakrabarty modified existing crude-oil eating bacteria by combining their plasmid genes and producing a new stable species capable of consuming oil "one to two orders of magnitude faster." The Supreme Court liked that patent, and has since repeatedly affirmed that decision, even though there were no synthetic genes there.

Re:Compromise? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582165)

For God's sake mind your tongue! THIS patent may not involve synthetic genes, but if it doesn't work, guess what Monsanto will try next?

I can already see... (1)

qeveren (318805) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581967)

the 5-4 split decision along party lines in favour of Monsanto.

Re:I can already see... (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582173)

Unless it goes the other way and suddenly you don't hate the supremes any more, but love them.

Breach of Contract not necessarily IP infringement (2, Informative)

mauthbaux (652274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582009)

As I understand it, the issue with the replanted/cleaned seeds is a matter of intentional breach of contract rather than one of patent infringement. When you purchase their seeds, you purchase a license with them that prohibits the replanting/cleaning of the seeds. So whether or not IP was infringed is essentially irrelevant to the stipulations of the contract itself.

Monsanto discusses the topic on their FAQ concerning Food Inc. http://www.monsanto.com/food-inc/Pages/default.aspx [monsanto.com]

There's also a practical reason behind preventing the cleaning and replanting of seed. Since these seeds contain a pesticide (Bt derivative), a necessary step to maintaining the efficacy of the pesticide is planting a refuge (non-GM section) as part of the crop. If the whole crop expressed the pesticide genes, we could expect resistance to develop very quickly, but by adding in refuge areas the selective pressure decreases. The size of the refuge varies depending on the mix of proteins being expressed, and is determined by the EPA. These non-GM refuge seeds are sometimes mixed in with the GM ones at specific ratios. By cleaning/replanting the seeds, the ratio of GM to non-GM seeds changes, and the size of the refuge is no longer controlled. This creates a situation similar to the over-prescription of antibiotics that we're all familiar with; resistant pest strains will appear much more frequently. So there are reasons other than simple greed behind these contracts.

Disclaimer: I'm currently employed at Monsanto, but contracted through a third party. I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, and my comments should not be interpreted as such.

Re:Breach of Contract not necessarily IP infringem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582095)

I have never been so disturbed by the internet until this day. You Sir, are the literal example of a fucking psycho.

How about you stop messing around with my food crops' genes to the point if I don't plant them in just the right way the whole system collapses and people everywhere go hungry?

Also, go kill yourself. Seriously. Do it. Well.. that or quit.

Re:Breach of Contract not necessarily IP infringem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582179)

Well, they seem to have mesmorised you and removed all rational thinking from your mind. Step back a moment and read how ridiculous your comment sounds. You *really* think that Monsato is doing the world a favor by suing innocent people? To protect the world from gene contamination? Give me a fucking break.

Re:Breach of Contract not necessarily IP infringem (1)

DeathElk (883654) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582205)

So there are reasons other than simple greed behind these contracts.

That reason being the potential mass destruction of staple food crops due to pesticide resistance. Bought about by a corporate effort to monopolise seed. Allow me this; Monsanto, their board, their employees (including yourself) and anybody who provides research, funds, or in any way supports this concept of patented genes in the crop cycle is doing it only out of selfish greed, and should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Re:Breach of Contract not necessarily IP infringem (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582283)

but there never were a contract..

Isn't this a gene / natural-law patent? (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582055)

I thought we just invalidated those...

Five more years and it's all over (5, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39582067)

Monsanto is so vigorous about defending its Roundup Ready seed patents because they are in a panic about what's happening in plant biology. Here's why.

Once you reach a point that farm weeds are starting to show resistance to Roundup, the game's up for Roundup. Most crops are grown in areas where 95% of the land is under cultivation. So you have virtually all Monsanto's seed sown in large areas that are pretty uniform breeding grounds for weeds. For years, Roundup Ready was a big advantage, because there were just a few kinds of weeds that could survive Roundup spraying. But now we've reached a point where 94% of the farmland is under cultivation with Roundup Ready and it's getting sprayed every year at the weeds' peak vulnerability times with Roundup, putting massive selection pressure on the weeds.

Once you reach a level where 1% of the weeds are resistant, and 94% of them get sprayed with something like 90% mortality, you get a next generation of weed seeds that's about 5% resistant. They year after that it's about 20% resistant. At this point farmers still see some value in Roundup. It still gives them an 80% reduction in weeds. But next year it's about 57% resistant. Now the farmer is frustrated. He sprays and sprays again and curses Monsanto. His crops are OK, but he's not doing as well as the guy down the road who doesn't spray at all but uses other methods for weed reduction.

But Roundup has been his method for 15 years and he's reluctant to try something new.

The next year, 87% of the weeds are resistant to Roundup. He sprays and only a handful of weeds die. He knows he sprayed at the right time. His neighbors are all bemoaning the same problem. "It ain't the Roundup. It's the weeds," one buddy says. "I got some on my grass and it was dead as fuckall the next morning. The weeds have adapted."

Roundup sales plummet mid-year. The company rep calls the feed store. "Farmers ain't buying it no more.," the manager tells him. "They say it don't work no more." It makes headlines across the country.

The next year, Roundup sales are zero, and there's no market for Roundup Ready seeds. Farmers are looking for other seeds that give the best yield on their soil type and moisture level.

The only way Monsanto keeps a money stream on the Roundup product is selling it to city dwellers to kill dandelions and crabgrass. But by now it's adapting in the city as well.

So they either introduce a new plant killer and have a giant campaign to get farmers on board -- farmers who feel screwed by paying for two years of overpriced seeds and worthless chemicals -- or they get out of the seed business.

Unless they can enforce a patent right on every seed that has their gene in it no matter how many generations removed from their production. Because you can no longer find a pure source of seed uncontaminated by their gene. Too many farmers have grown it and it has cross-pollinated into everybody's crop.

And it all sounds richly deserved, but then you realize that the same thing is happening with bacteria that attack our bodies. Only slower, because the breeding ground for those germs isn't under as heavy a pressure.

Re:Five more years and it's all over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582161)

Cool story bro story bro

Re:Five more years and it's all over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582189)

Accidentally moderated as "funny" - meant to moderate as "informative". Good post!

The U.S. government is EXTREMELY corrupt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39582169)

The U.S. government is EXTREMELY corrupt, and becoming more corrupt every day, in my opinion.
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