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Supreme Court Rules For Monsanto In Patent Case

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the all-your-seeds-are-belong-to-us dept.

The Courts 579

Pigskin-Referee writes in with news of the Supreme Court's decision in a dispute between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer over patented seeds. "The Supreme Court has sustained Monsanto Co.'s claim that an Indiana farmer violated the company's patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed-killer. The justices, in a unanimous vote Monday, rejected the farmer's argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company's Roundup herbicide. Justice Elena Kagan says a farmer who buys patented seeds must have the patent holder's permission. More than 90 percent of American soybean farms use Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' seeds, which first came on the market in 1996."

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579 comments

So much for that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711257)

It was nice knowing you farmer dale.

Re:So much for that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711427)

Doesn't this violate the first sale doctrine?

Monsanto sold the seeds at one point. A company resells them, or a company sells the seeds from its products made from the seeds they bought.

If Monsanto wants to keep a business, they should produce better seeds each time, prohibit selling of the seeds aside from licensed resellers (can be enforced in contract, so the seller pays for violation not the buyer), or make the seeds infertile so that they keep a market.

I'm happy this isn't about cross-pollination as I thought from the title though. Monsanto shouldn't be able to win that argument morally or ethically.

Re:So much for that! (4, Informative)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#43711511)

Doesn't this violate the first sale doctrine?

The first sale doctrine gets you out of licensing terms but it doesn't allow you to make more copies of the patented article:

But Kagan disagreed. "Bowman planted Monsanto's patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article," she said. "Patent exhaustion provides no haven for such conduct."

Re:So much for that! (4, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#43711671)

The first sale doctrine gets you out of licensing terms but it doesn't allow you to make more copies of the patented article:

But in this case...the product replicates ITSELF.

That's the difference.

If Monsanto doesn't like it..why don't they make their genetically modified crops self-terminating?

Re:So much for that! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711781)

The first sale doctrine gets you out of licensing terms but it doesn't allow you to make more copies of the patented article:

But in this case...the product replicates ITSELF.

That's the difference.

If Monsanto doesn't like it..why don't they make their genetically modified crops self-terminating?

Are you for real? Is your next argument going to be "why don't copyright holders make their music uncopyable?" There are plenty of angles to argue against Monsanto (and the court ruling) but saying "well if you want me to stop copying and selling your invention, why don't you make me!" is pretty pathetic.

Re:So much for that! (2)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#43711609)

No it doesn't. The First sale doctrine is a limit on the rights the owner of a copyright or trademark not patents.

Re:So much for that! (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#43711763)

That's going to make the resale of anything covered by a patent rather difficult.

Re:So much for that! (3, Informative)

Dare nMc (468959) | about a year ago | (#43711751)

Monsanto does require a "Technology Stewardship Agreement" to "buy" their seeds. I am guessing the agreement is more of a your licensing the seed. So while you could re-sell the seed they sold you to another licensed grower, the resulting output is being controlled by the stewardship agreement.

This is disgusting!! (0, Flamebait)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about a year ago | (#43711277)

How does this help anyone? A local farmer is just trying to feed mouths and make ends meet yet the Big Pharma et al get to shit all over the little man once again. What little faith I have left in humanity is quickly diminishing due to these wankers.

Re:This is disgusting!! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711309)

Monsanto isn't "Big Pharma", they're not a drug company. Get your paranoid conspiracy theories straight.

Re:This is disgusting!! (2, Informative)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about a year ago | (#43711331)

No, but they're like them, similar in kind, hence the et al. How about contributing something positive instead of shooting down others to satisfy your own anger venting.

Re:This is disgusting!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711435)

Why isn't the farmer using regular seeds? If you want a "better" product, pay for it.

Personally, I try to avoid GMO completely, but this guy wanted something for nothing.

Re:This is disgusting!! (3, Insightful)

Andrio (2580551) | about a year ago | (#43711587)

If he gets any cross pollination from other farmers using monsanto seeds, he'll get sued again. And he will lose. Farmers always lose these lawsuits where their fields got cross-pollinated by patented genes.

Re:This is disgusting!! (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43711699)

If he gets any cross pollination from other farmers using monsanto seeds, he'll get sued again. And he will lose. Farmers always lose these lawsuits where their fields got cross-pollinated by patented genes.

I frequently hear this claim, and I frequently hear the other side declare that it's bullshit. Neither side actually cites a court case. Does this actually happen, or not?

Re:This is disgusting!! (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#43711701)

If he gets any cross pollination from other farmers using monsanto seeds, he'll get sued again. And he will lose. Farmers always lose these lawsuits where their fields got cross-pollinated by patented genes.

Have any farmer groups tried turning the tables, and suing MONSANTO for putting a product out, that infects a farmers non-gmo plants? Shouldn't Monsanto be required to make sure their products self terminate, and can't spread to 'infect' regular crops?

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43711769)

He should counter-sue that their seeds polluted his crop. Write his farm up as "organic" or "non-GMO".

Re:This is disgusting!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711481)

They're similar to "them" in the same way that the Mafia is similar to Al-Qaeda, both are well funded organizations of low morality, but they still do fundamentally different things, and leveling accusations at one for the actions of the other is not only stupid and uninformed, it's also insulting to the people who actually work against the problems these groups create. Your suggestion of "contributing something positive" applies well to yourself - I did contribute something positive (ie: truth), now it's your turn, since you haven't yet.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year ago | (#43711525)

Quite right, Monsanto doesn't make drugs. They make chemicals like DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange. Much much better than those nasty drug companies.

OK, to be fair, they don't make Agent Orange any more, and they swear (absolutely swear) that they've changed. Their current products are all 100% totally safe. I mean, they wouldn't sell them if they weren't, right? Right.

Re:This is disgusting!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711709)

Never claimed they were "morally superior", just that they aren't "Big Pharma". Just because the postal service uses motor vehicles in the course of their duties, should we be calling them "Nascar", and blaming Nascar for our mail getting lost?

Re:This is disgusting!! (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43711785)

They still make Agent Orange, and it's still primarily used as herbicide in modern farming. The original toxic compound was a mistake caused by poor controls in manufacturing of a component of Agent Orange.

Re:This is disgusting!! (3, Funny)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43711733)

Theory. Singular. There is one conspiracy run from a group of powerful individuals dating back to Ancient Egypt.

Re:This is disgusting!! (5, Interesting)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43711341)

Did you read TFA? The farmer knew exactly what he was doing and was trying to get around the patent to save money... he got caught.

The bigger issue here is:

Monsanto has a policy to protect its investment in seed development that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year.

That's a very harsh policy and they probably charge a premium for their seed, it must be tough to be a farmer nowadays.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

frootcakeuk (638517) | about a year ago | (#43711379)

Hence, shitting on the little guy once again. My point wasn't that the farmer got caught being a little naughty, it was that Monsanto really shouldn't be doing this at all. A farmer should be able to grow seeds regardeless from where they came from, not to be dictated to by some corporate entity.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1, Interesting)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43711641)

Monsanto developed the genetically modified seeds, they can restrict their use however they want. Nothing prevents a competitor from developing a strain resistant to a different herbicide. Nothing prevents a farmer from just using normal soybean seeds.

While there may be a case of the big evil Monsanto against the little guy in situations of cross-pollination, or otherwise unintended use of the modified crop, in this case, the "poor farmer" willfully purchased modified seed from a third party, not intended for replantation, to bypass the patent licensing. This situation was the little guy trying to screw the big evil Monsanto.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year ago | (#43711675)

Actually, if the plants cross-pollinate (i.e. Their damned plants contaminate my Heirloom seed planted crops via pollen...) they have sued and won over that specific and particular circumstance.

It's a bigger picture than this- and I'm a bit shocked that the Supreme Court gave Monsanto this one.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#43711813)

My point was that while I feel the ruling on cases such as cross-pollination should have gone to the farmer, as a completely unintended consequence of the natural behavior of plants, this particular case was a clear cut attempt on the part of the farmer to use Monsanto's patented technology, while circumventing the necessary licensing fees. There was obvious and unabashed intent. The farmer even confirmed in court that's what he was trying to do.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711749)

Why should they be able to restrict their use? Seriously, you seem to just take it for granted that the government should waste its time and energy enforcing a monopoly on Monsanto's modified products. Could traditional seed suppliers do the same, patenting their hybridizing methods? Agriculture should not work the same way copyright law works!

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

ah.clem (147626) | about a year ago | (#43711653)

He is allowed to purchase any seeds he wants. As I understand it, he chose to buy seeds already "'Roundup' resistant" but not pay the Monsanto price to keep his maintenance costs down and profits up, rather than purchasing non-genetically enhanced seeds which require more maintenance dollars on his part.

Whether or not Monsanto should be doing this is moot; they are following the rules of the game, and fiercely (almost insanely, IMO) going after any infringement at all. They will continue to do this until the rules change.

Unfortunately, getting the rules changed is a very, very tough row to hoe and I do not expect to see it happen in my (or my grand-kid's) lifetime.

This is the world we have made.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43711681)

Patents expire. Less then 10 years left on this one.

Re:This is disgusting!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711439)

It is a form of indentured servitude... being an independent farmer in America, as far as I know, is very tough, according to all of these anti-big company documentaries, like Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, etc.. being a farmer = poor, and making money = bad.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43711619)

This is not new - this is why people flocked to the cities from the rural areas in the first place.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year ago | (#43711691)

There's ways around it. Working on some of them right now. They still sell and have available Heirloom seeds for most crops. You can't cross-pollinate hydroponically grown stuff.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711541)

Farmer could use and save non-Monsanto seeds. They choose not to because the can't hose those seeds down with weedkiller and they find it to be more profitable to use Monsanto's special breed of seeds. I'm no fan of Monsanto, but there is no indentured servitude here. Just business.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711683)

You really think that?

Monsanto has repeatedly sued farmers who planted without using their seeds by proving that due to cross pollination, all Soybeans are now their variety. So Farmers are not allowed to wash and use their own seeds.

Watch "Food Inc." they speak with the farmer this happened to. What Monsanto does is pretty despicable.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year ago | (#43711715)

If any of his neighbors use Monsanto or other "patented" seeds, they have the risk of cross-pollination from the neighboring farms and they're STILL screwed since Monsanto's sued and won on that subject in the past.

It's more difficult than one would think.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711775)

All it takes is one up-wind neighbor who uses Monsanto's seeds, and that farmer who opted out of Monsanto's greed train gets sued into oblivion, and replaced with a corporate owned factory farm that _does_ use Monsanto's seeds. The next year, whoever's downwind of that farm is next on the chopping block.

Re: This is disgusting!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711555)

You don't have to but patented seeds. My parents run a farm and they buy nothing for Monsanto.

Re: This is disgusting!! (1)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year ago | (#43711731)

Hope your neighbors aren't planting Monsanto or other Patented company's stuff...then you'll be having fun due to cross-pollenization.

Re:This is disgusting!! (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43711613)

The bigger issue here is:

Monsanto has a policy to protect its investment in seed development that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year.

Only farmers that sign a contract with Monsanto are bound by this agreement. If you want to save your own seeds, you are free to do so. The defendant in this case was NOT sued for just planting seeds that happened to be GMO. He was sued for deliberately spraying his crop with glyphosate herbicide to kill non-RR plants in order to isolate the RR gene, and then he saved the resulting 100% RR beans and planted them the following year. Portraying him as an innocent and unwitting victim is absurd. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

jandrese (485) | about a year ago | (#43711663)

I'm torn. Farmers are free to use non-GMO seeds, but economically speaking these seeds make sense. The increased product you get in the end more than compensates for the increased seed costs. This isn't one of those bullcrap cases where someone gets sued because pollen from the GMO plants blew into his non GMO fields and Monsanto came over to shake him down for his hybrid crops. This guy was just trying to use the GMO seeds without paying for them.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43711765)

Yes, it is harsh -- you get to do that when inventing something. That's why these somethings exist.

I invent something. That you have a heartbeat doesn't mean you are suddenly deprived of it.

Re:This is disgusting!! (4, Informative)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about a year ago | (#43711827)

it must be tough to be a farmer nowadays.

Which is why farmers use seeds with GM traits. These traits reduce many of the input costs (fertilizer, fuel, time, pesticides, etc.) associated with growing soy and corn.

Farmers are professionals, and they are more than capable of making decisions about which technologies to adopt for themselves. These are not victims FORCED to buy something against their will, but reasonable people who weigh the costs and benefits of each technology and make their own determinations of the value. My group sells to many of these farmers (on the animal production side), and they are not passive sheep buying whatever our salesmen tell them is best. They do their homework, run the numbers, bargan hard and play one vendor against another just like any other procurement officer, because it is their own money on the line.

Fact is, farmers have been buying new seeds every year for far longer than GM seeds have been commercially available. I could be mistaken, but i belive that contracts prohibiting keeping seeds also pre-date GM seeds. Seed companies have made their money for decades by developing deep crop improvement research and development pipelines. Because they hire lots of PhD carrying crop geneticists, they can generate more improvement from year to year than a farmer can do on his own, with his already limited time. This enables farmers to outsource their crop improvement to specialists who are more efficient, allowing them to devote more effort on what they are best at, Growing the food. GM is just a new tool to help the seed companies, and the farmers that buy their seeds achieve the goals they have been pursuing for years.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year ago | (#43711351)

It helps the lawyers. Anyone on SCOTUS not a J.D.? They have a somewhat biased view of the world.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

compro01 (777531) | about a year ago | (#43711735)

I believe Breyer, Scalia, Kennedy, and Ginsburg only have Bachelor's degrees in law.

Re:This is disgusting!! (4, Funny)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about a year ago | (#43711417)

"Big Pharma"... more like "Big Farm, eh?"

Re:This is disgusting!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711739)

"Big Pharma"... more like "Big Farm, eh?"

That's "Big Ag", ya hoser.

Re:This is disgusting!! (2)

optikos (1187213) | about a year ago | (#43711743)

Monsanto is not a Canadian company, nor a character in Fargo.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

Andrio (2580551) | about a year ago | (#43711561)

The farmer should just use non-Monsanto seeds that can be reused every year.

Oh wait, Monsanto will sue you if you get cross pollination from your neighbor, nevermind.

I guess if you're a farmer, you either pay Monsanto's yearly protection money or.... not be a farmer anymore. That's a pretty sweet gig they have going.

Re:This is disgusting!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711611)

How does this help anyone? I believe almost every farmer considers round-up-ready seed to be a benefit to virtually everyone around the world.

Re:This is disgusting!! (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#43711673)

This is a good thing. The farmer should buy real soy bean seeds and plant those. They're whining because they can't soak your soy beans in a constant stream of Monsanto pesticides.

The normal pesticide is actually Agent Orange, but manufactured correctly. It's a blend of Round-Up and something else (2-D-4-methylsomething or some such); Agent Orange was this blend, but we've been assured that it was so toxic because the manufacturing process produces certain other toxic chemicals that must be controlled, and the control was botched in that particular instance. That's been fixed.

Rather than tilling the land and weeding properly, farmers will buy Monsanto stuff that kills their crops, mixed with other stuff that kills grass but NOT their crops, and cover their crops in it. They'll get Monsanto seeds that won't be killed by the pesticides, and thus not have to worry about it killing their crops. "Organic" doesn't mean much, but organic farming and non-GMO crops can't be flooded with these particular herbicidal chemicals. They can still use Pyrithren pesticides, but not with PBO and certainly not Permethrin.

Re:This is disgusting!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711835)

I think you should watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfYJsQAhl0 [youtube.com]

Sad day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711279)

This what big money can do. Boycott all of this idiots who wants to ruin our future

Re:Sad day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711457)

Good luck finding food that wasn't grown without any products from Monsanto. Let us know what you find.

The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (5, Insightful)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about a year ago | (#43711287)

The simple matter is that the farmer's recourse is to now sue the seller (operator of the grain elevator), for selling seeds he is not authorized to sell, resulting in damages xzy as stipulated in the costs of the lawsuits the farmer had to defend itself against.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (2, Insightful)

click2005 (921437) | about a year ago | (#43711335)

How much would you bet that after losing to Big Asshole Corporation #1 he probably wont have the money for a lengthy court battle with Smaller Asshole Corporation #2?

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year ago | (#43711755)

Depends on if he's got enough case to attract an attorney on Contingency. Not all lawyers work on up-front fees and the like.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (5, Insightful)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43711359)

I was wondering why Monsanto didnt sue the elevator instead. Obviously sueing your distributor and claiming they have no right to sell is a short sighted activity, but they are the ones who violated the contract. I just cant wrap my head around the concept that you can purchase something not under contract, that someone else can then come along and sue you for having purchased under incorrect terms.

I guess the car analogy is that if you buy a stolen car, you are in possession of a stolen vehicle , but the real wrong doer is the guy selling 50 stolen cars on his used car lot.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (3, Interesting)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#43711425)

I guess the car analogy is that if you buy a stolen car, you are in possession of a stolen vehicle , but the real wrong doer is the guy selling 50 stolen cars on his used car lot.

But in that case you do have to forfeit the stolen vehicle, so you are out the money that you paid for it. I guess the thinking is that he has to pay back any profits he made? I don't agree with the decision or the lawsuit, but the car analogy is not that different.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (3, Insightful)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#43711605)

The car analogy is: you buy a used (not stolen) Toyota, pull it apart to make molds of the bodywork and parts etc, and then start manufacturing and selling Toyotas.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (5, Informative)

Endo13 (1000782) | about a year ago | (#43711431)

They didn't sue the elevator because they did nothing wrong. They were selling the soybeans for 'feed, milling, and other uses'. Not for seed to be planted. You really can't do anything else useful with soybeans, so there you go.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711581)

Planting is another use.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year ago | (#43711461)

The beans he bought from the grain elevator were intended to be used as feedstock, not seedstock. The grain elevator (presumably) had no idea he was going to plant them, and in any case selling patented "technology" isn't illegal (especially given that selling them is the whole point of the elevator in the first place) unless Monsanto had a license deal with them that made them liable should anyone they sell the seeds to use them as seeds.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (2)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43711809)

I was thinking that the elevator would have a reselling license that forced them to force the contract terms downstream. It seems that selling these as feedstock allowed them to not impose the license/contract restrictions, and therefore allowed them to sell the beans below the market rate. The farmer then gets the seeds under no contract, but is expected to not plant them.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (2)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#43711569)

I was wondering why Monsanto didnt sue the elevator instead.

The grain elevator didn't do anything wrong. This wasn't decided based on the licensing agreement, which in any case the grain elevator never signed. The farmer lost because he made and marketed replicas of patented items.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43711679)

I was wondering why Monsanto didnt sue the elevator instead.

Because the elevator was selling a legal product. To extend your car analogy, the cars were not stolen.

Then the farmer planted the seeds, thus "copying" the formerly legal goods. Back to the car analogy, this is like buying a Chevy from a dealer, and then copying and selling the copies. It all makes sense in the weird realm of IP law.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (3, Interesting)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43711837)

so there we have the "blame the bean" strategy. Making copies of all of the parts of a car sounds really expensive and hard. Making copies of the beans involved putting them in dirt and waiting.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year ago | (#43711745)

I just cant wrap my head around the concept that you can purchase something not under contract, that someone else can then come along and sue you for having purchased under incorrect terms.

That's how patents work. They go even further than your example does: If you independently re-invent that something, you still can't sell it without violating the patent.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year ago | (#43711783)

I was wondering why Monsanto didnt sue the elevator instead

Because they didn't do anything wrong. They were completely within their rights to sell the seed. That is even stated in Monsanto's contract.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (5, Informative)

Endo13 (1000782) | about a year ago | (#43711403)

Actually, no.

From TFA:

He went to a grain elevator that held soybeans it typically sells for feed, milling and other uses, but not as seed.

Nothing indicates that they sold him the soybeans to be planted. They sold them for feed, milling, or other uses, but he decided to plant them instead.

Which to me just highlights how bad it is to allow something self-replicating (like plant seeds) to be patented. You can buy the seeds and grow the plants, but the 'fruit' you get from the plants (which are just new seeds) you're not allowed to plant. Frankly, it's stupid IMO, and one more reason patent law needs a major overhaul.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (0)

iluvcapra (782887) | about a year ago | (#43711409)

I don't know the specifics in this case, but it's quite likely the elevator's owned by a co-op, of which he and all of his neighbors are members.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43711443)

The simple matter is that the farmer's recourse is to now sue the seller (operator of the grain elevator), for selling seeds he is not authorized to sell

Wrong. Because the farmer wasn't sued for planting and growing the seeds. That was NOT the issue in this case, although you would be led to believe it was by the crappy Slashdot summary. The issue was that Bowman (the defendant):
1) Bought seeds that were mostly Roundup Ready
2) Planted them
3) Sprayed the crop with glyphosate (the herbicide in Roundup) to kill the non-GMO plants
4) Saved the resulting 100% pure RR beans, and planted them the following year
This was a case of blatant, intentional infringement. Bowman deliberately concentrated the RR gene, and benefited from it by spraying with glyphosate (which would kill non-RR bean plants). Bowman openly admitted that this was what he did. His defense was not "I didn't do it", but rather "I have a right to do it". Well the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. If he had simply bought the bean seeds, and grown them without herbicides, there would have been no issue.

 

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711603)

Thoretically, no.
He bought seeds unencumbered with licences, fter that he was free to use them any way he chose. He obeyed the letter of the law and got screwed.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (2)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#43711649)

Bit like you can't do what you like with your phone once you buy it.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#43711697)

If he had simply bought the bean seeds, and grown them without herbicides, there would have been no issue.

I'm not certain that's the case. Even if he hadn't selected for RR by spraying glyphosate most of his crop would still have been RR so he still would have been making and marketing replicas of Monsanto's product.

The court might have split on the decision though.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (4, Informative)

Frobnicator (565869) | about a year ago | (#43711829)

Most notable is the last paragraph of the court's ruling:

Our holding today is limited—addressing the situation before us, rather than every one involving a self-replicating product. We recognize 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. We need not address here whether or how the doctrine of patent exhaustion would apply in such circumstances. In the case at hand, Bowman planted Monsanto’s patented soybeans solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article. Patent exhaustion provides no haven for that conduct.

If he didn't use the pesticide he probably would have been fine. Since various sources said about 90% of the beans would be GMO-infected he could simply have planted the seeds directly and would have had a much stronger defense.

And of course, the court left the more thorny issues open for a future lawsuit.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (2)

Jabrwock (985861) | about a year ago | (#43711463)

It likely won't work, as the elevator was selling the other seed as feed, not for planting. The farmer was banking on getting RR seed, because he knew the elevator didn't care what kind of seed went into the stuff for "feed/milling/etc".

He was trying to argue that first sale doctrine means the patent can't tell him he can't use the cheap seed for planting. Which is true. But the patent still applies because he can use the seed to grow more seed, and he knew it.

This isn't a case of a farmer's crop being cross-contaminated. This guy was deliberately trying to get around having to honour the plant patent by obtaining the seeds through other means.

Monsanto may have a case against the elevator for not heat-treating the seeds sold as feed to ensure they could not be used for planting. But the farmer does not have a case, as he was banking on the elevator not treating the seed.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

siride (974284) | about a year ago | (#43711535)

A true taste of the libertarian utopia that we can all look forward to.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43711703)

In libertarian utopia, there probably wouldn't be IP law.

Re:The farmer's recourse is to sue to sell (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#43711747)

for selling seeds he is not authorized to sell

What's likely is the dude was selling regular soybeans which had unknowingly become cross-pollinated with Monsanto pollen. Bees and wind give no f#cks about copyright. They take pollen from field to field and Monsanto knows this.

Here it comes (0)

paiute (550198) | about a year ago | (#43711315)

This case will join the McDonalds' spilled coffee suit in the "spark the knee-jerking hall of fame".

Not a good case (3, Insightful)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year ago | (#43711345)

As much as the idea of patented seeds is ridiculous and dangerous (IMO), this particular argument wasn't going to fly.

The more important part of the decision (FTA): "But Kagan said the court's holding only "addresses the situation before us."" There was no wider ruling on whether seeds are patentable as IP or anything sweeping like that.

Re:Not a good case (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year ago | (#43711815)

I agree that it was a bad test case (good for Monsanto though).
The complication is that he bought grain elevator seeds once and then saved/replanted them for 8 years.
That seems like much less of a grey area than if he had kept buying them from the grain elevator every year.

A message from The SEO Portal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711405)

I'm impressed. You're truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I'm saving this for future use.

Re:A message from The SEO Portal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711615)

I'm impressed. You're truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I'm saving this for future use!

Re:A message from The SEO Portal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711693)

I'm impressed. You're truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I'm saving this - for future use.

So the onus is on the buyer? (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | about a year ago | (#43711453)

Just imagine if someone buying a computer had to get separate permission from its hundreds of patent holders after purchasing it before being able to legally switch it on?

I think it would be fairer for the "grain elevator" in this story to be one one who had to pay Monsanto.

I want to see the flip side of this case (4, Interesting)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#43711491)

The organic farmer selling non-GMO crops who sues for damages 'cause his plants are cross-pollenated by a neighboring farmer using GMO seeds who doesn't follow the guidelines for planting a barrier row of non-GMO plants around the edges of his field.

mens rea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711499)

IANAL, but the way I understand it, mens rea is considered a necessary element for some crimes. I will admit I did not read the article, but it sounds like the seller was the one that had mens rea to violate the patent (the validity of such patents is irrelevant to my point). I would think Monsanto would go after the seller, because it would reduce the "damage" they receive and go after the party that is truly guilty. Correct me if I am wrong, but the precedent this court opinion sets is buyer beware when it comes to patent violations?

Re:mens rea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711527)

I am the OP. I just realized I forgot to mention that I am aware that IP violations are a civil, not criminal matter.

Re:mens rea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711727)

The farmer admitted that he knew it would be a GMO crop. That's why he planted it then sprayed it with RoundUp to weed out the non-GMO crop. And the grain elevator sold the seed for non-planting purposes. You can't hold a car seller responsible if you rob a bank using that car as a getaway car. Unless they gave it to you specifically to rob a bank.

Another pro-business decision (1, Interesting)

MikeTheGreat (34142) | about a year ago | (#43711501)

Even if the farmer is technically a businessperson it's still clear that the SCOTUS ruled in favor of the large corporation (at the expense of everyone else), as they're now wont to do:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/business/pro-business-decisions-are-defining-this-supreme-court.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [nytimes.com]

Re:Another pro-business decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711655)

It's important to emphasize *large corporation.* Small businesses that are trying to contribute to their communities and make a living - as well as small farmers are getting crushed. Small business owners don't have access to the state and national capitol halls.

We can't lobby the court (1)

istartedi (132515) | about a year ago | (#43711517)

You can't lobby the court, but you can vote with your feet [non-gmoreport.com] . It takes time and effort though. This is just a battle that was lost, not the war.

Re:We can't lobby the court (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43711821)

You CAN lobby the court. It's called an Amicus Curiae Brief.

The patent must run out soon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711533)

If these things have been sold since 1996, and presumably the patent was filed a few years before that, I guess it will expire soon...

Cross Contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711559)

Cross contamination is the big issue that needs to find its way into the SCOTUS dockets. Monsanto routinely goes after organic farmers whose farms were contaminated by neighboring GMO farms.

Has Monsanto proven... (1)

Macchendra (2919537) | about a year ago | (#43711607)

Has Monsanto proven that they have taken reasonable steps to prevent pollination where it is "unauthorized"? If my neighbor's "RoundUp Ready" (yuk, btw) crop of soybeans pollinates my field, am I just screwed?

Rock and a hard place (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year ago | (#43711729)

There are competing interests here.

On one hand we have farmers who are trying to make a living growing things. They want to use Roundup Ready seeds as they have a higher yield when used with Roundup.

On the other hand we have Monsanto who spent millions of dollars creating genetically modified seeds that are resistant to their herbicides. There needs to be a way for them to make a profit from that investment.

The issues; If there is no patent protection the seed manufacturer would have to make all their investment back in one year as any subsequent seeds can be saved and re-sold by farmers. Where is the incentive to invest in the technology if there is no way to benefit from it?

On the other side there are lawsuits that being filed against farmers who's crops are infected by stray seeds from nearby fields. Though on closer examination some of the suits are against farmers who are deliberately killing most of their crop with Roundup, by over spraying, so they can isolate the volunteer plants and use their seeds for the next year's crops. That is not normal farming practice and is designed to get around the patent.

Monsanto has gone overboard in a few cases but in many cases it is well justified in protecting its business. Perhaps patent laws could be modified so that the time to recoup investment is shorter and the patent ends sooner.

New law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711833)

I propose a new law that states that a) seeds cannot be patented; b) inserting termination genes into plants intended for human or livestock consumption is a criminal offense (think of our future children, seriously). In addition, any corp which tries it is to be disbanded and its assets seized.

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