SCOTUS Requests Government View in Patent Dispute over GM Soybeans
The U.S. Supreme Court has invited the U.S. solicitor general to submit a brief addressing the issues raised in a dispute over patent exhaustion and second-generation genetically modified (GM) seeds. Bowman v. Monsanto Co., No. 11-796 (U.S., order entered April 2, 2012). An Indiana farmer, who was found to have infringed Monsanto’s patents by planting the Roundup Ready® soybeans he purchased from a grain elevator, filed a petition for certiorari, arguing that when the company sold its patented seeds to a different farmer, who later sold the soybeans to the grain elevator, it exhausted its rights to that seed and all of its descendants. He was not required to sign a licensing agreement before buying “commodity” soybeans and thus claims that he was free to plant them and then save and replant each crop in future seasons. Monsanto reportedly contends that each generation is a separate product and that the farmer is, in effect, “manufacturing” infringing soybeans. See arstechnica.com, April 4, 2012.