The Supreme Court Monday ruled in favor of Monsanto in the case of an Indiana farmer that contends he did not infringe on Monsanto's patent rights when he planted soybean seeds derived from soybeans containing a patented glyphosate-resistant Monsanto gene.
The case was brought against Bowman after Monsanto discovered he purchased Roundup Ready soybeans from a local grain elevator and, from 1999 to 2007, planted, cultivated and harvested them to create a supply of soybeans containing the patented traits.
Monsanto subsequently sued Bowman for patent infringement, while Bowman countered with an argument of patent exhaustion, which gives the purchaser of a patented article, or any subsequent owner, the right to reuse or resell the article. Bowman argued that he could save and replant the seeds because they were subject to a prior authorized sale.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected the defense and upheld Monsanto's claim unanimously. Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the opinion that, "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."
Kagan further noted that, "Under the patent exhaustion doctrine, Bowman could resell the patented soybeans he purchased from the grain elevator; so too he could consume the beans himself or feed them to his animals … but the exhaustion doctrine does not enable Bowman to make additional patented soybeans without Monsanto's permission."
In a statement, Monsanto explained that the decision reflects the incentive structure the patent system provides for innovation.
The ruling "provides assurance to all inventors throughout the public and private sectors that they can and should continue to invest in innovation that feeds people, improves lives, creates jobs, and allows America to keep its competitive edge," said David F. Snively, general counsel for Monsanto.