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Supreme Court To Decide If Monsanto GMO Patents Are Valid

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the he-said-kill-it-before-it-grows dept.

Biotech 308

tomhath writes with this exerpt from a Reuters story: "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear an Indiana farmer's appeal that challenges the scope of Monsanto Co.'s patent rights on its Roundup Ready seeds. Mr. Bowman bought and planted 'commodity seeds' from a grain elevator. Those soybean seeds were a mix and included some that contained Monsanto's technology. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over the objections of the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to leave the lower court rulings in place."

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If you thought the utility monopolies were bad... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581805)

Wait for the food monopolies... oh wait, they're already here.

Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (5, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582681)

... The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over the objections of the Obama administration ...

Why is the Obama administration trying so hard to stop the Supreme Court from hearing this case?
 
Can someone fill me in, please?
 
 
 

 
 
 

Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (-1, Flamebait)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582705)

Well for one thing, I hope nobody else starts copying Monsanto's specific roundup-resistant GMO strain, since there was an article recently showing that both the GMO strain and roundup itself cause cancer.. so it would make sense to stop anyone else from copying it.

Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (5, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582751)

since there was an article recently showing that both the GMO strain and roundup itself cause cancer.

The research methods used in that article have been criticised by a lot of people. Not all published scientific articles are correct.

Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (5, Informative)

pseudofrog (570061) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583189)

Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (1, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582977)

And in light of this, we should ask again why anybody would be expected to vote for him... Oh yeah... something about lizards..

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there are at least two other people on the ballot... Maybe we ought to give one of them a shot and see what happens. I doubt they could do much worse, but we'll never know if we don't try. Like the lottery, you can't win if you don't play.

Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583111)

something about lizards

rock paper scissors lizard spock

Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583109)

Well, if Obama fucks us over by preventing the court from probably ruling against Monsanto, then Monsanto will somehow pay Obama later on in some way. Just Repubmocrat politics as per usual. Haven't you been paying attention the last century or so since the Repubmocrats have ruled unopposed? ( O.K. they sometimes pretend like the Reform party or Libertarians are running too, but, they are just there for show.) It's a poorly hidden scam, whatta you gonna do, vote Libertarian? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Like it matters!

I still think this guy should countersue . . . (5, Insightful)

mmell (832646) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581819)

After all, the manufacture, distribution and use of Monsanto's GM product is presumably regulated by some governmental agency? I tend to think that FDA is involved, at least? Monsanto's seed got onto that farmer's land without his knowledge or consent, and the potential damages he could suffer as a result of Monsanto's technology being inadvertently deployed on his land are demonstrably quite large. The ultimate fault is Monsanto's, for failing to adequately control their genetically modified produce's growth and proliferation.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (5, Interesting)

terminal.dk (102718) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581857)

He can probably not sell his seeds to Europe, we do not like genetically modified foods here. We let the americans be the Guinea Pigs of their own products.
It seems like the US Government has the same slogan like "The Body Shop" when it comes to food: "Product not tested on animals". There is enough humans to test on.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581871)

Well that wasn't offensive at all. Thanks for your insightful commentary.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1, Troll)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581891)

Tell the truth or go to church. Seems everyone in America is going to church too. Not so much in Europe.

See the next Slashdot story. (-1, Offtopic)

popo (107611) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583077)

England just jailed a guy for a Facebook post which sexualized Santa Claus.

Now tell me who the religious nutjobs are again?

You. Was that a rhetorical question? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583135)

Because it isn't about sexualising Santa Clause (who isn't part of a religion either, so double fail there).

But since you SAW it as such, this must mean you see EVERYTHING as religious.

Ergo proving you are the religious nutjob.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583145)

So this is the truth about Canuks in Europe.....mystery solved!

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (0, Offtopic)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583169)

Church attendance in the US is declining. The number of people attending church, synagogues, and Mosques represent a minority of the population. Keep in mind attendance figures include Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and all the other various faiths people practice freely in the US. People heap scorn on politicians running for office who are described as ultra religious but if you look at the actual policies these politicians end up supporting when elected you will not see them arguing their policies are ordained by GOD. One of the most glaring examples of weak religious influence is the Abortion ruling in 1972 that has not been over turned even after the foaming at the mouth religious zealots have been fixated on it for 40 years. An older example was the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920's. The religious extremists were the driving force behind this insane ruling and was ultimately repealed by those with a little more common sense. Politicians running for office pander to the religious minorities for votes not because they intend on making decisions based on religion once they are elected. And by the way I am not a religious person and believe man made organized religion and the practices they encompass are nothing more than a social control mechanism used to manipulate the average citizen.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582219)

If we in Europe don't like GMO crops, why do we sell roundup products in Portugal? http://www.aki.pt/Search.aspx?keyword=roundup&sid=0

Once i was in the queue to pay some products and noticed that herbicide for sale near the cash register. Started to ask ppl behind me in the queue if they knew Monsanto Corp. and their products and nobody could answer that. They did not knew who Monsanto was and the crimes they commit against human kind and the nature!

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (4, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582307)

Because roundup is a broad spectrum herbicide.
While it can also be used as a spray over developing crops of plants engineered to be resistant to it, it was developed purely as a herbicide, and is useful in that role.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582503)

Before i post the link for the search on that site, did searched for Monsanto and for the seeds section and really weren't any of Monsanto products listed, apart from that herbicide.
But, aren't Monsanto seeds genetically modified to resist their herbicide, that kills all the surrounding plants and pollutes the soil all were it was applied? Or is this specific one generically made to any kind of crop?

On the "the world according to Monsanto" Doc, a little back in time in France, there were some farmers having troubles with Monsanto seeds. What are the consequences of this now, currently? Is it known thru studies of any kind? I always hear discussions of this only over the N. Americas, but not on whats about this around the globe, since its disseminated on all continents, specially were the poorest populations live!

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583167)

The European Union has designated the Portuguese to be useful as test subjects so that actual Europeans are not harmed by Monsantos evil plot to depopulate the planet by lowering lifespans through the food chain. Guess someone figured,like a stopped clock, Hitler was even right twice a day. Volkswagon was a hit, I guess this was the other one.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583149)

It's sad that we're only the guinea pigs because Monsanto got a monopoly and is shoving the alternatives off the menu.

So our only choice in many cases is to eat Monsanto crap or eat nothing at all.

Monsanto backed us into a corner and not many of us are willing to starve to death to prove a point.

Sure, people who cornered the water market in the dry days of the wild west eventually saw their empires topple, in the interim many people paid dearly for to avoid losing something even more valuable.

Like with extortion by the MAFIAA, we only cave to the little things to avoid suffering the big things. The evil is on them for holding the big things hostage in the first place.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (4, Informative)

NettiWelho (1147351) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581875)

Countersueing a supercorporation takes a lot of resources, especially when you are already tied up in court.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (2)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583161)

He is in for a huge fight indeed. By taking it to the supremes he has galvanized the elite into scrambling to save their gravy train from being derailed.

More companies than just Monsanto are going to fight this tooth and nail because they have a lot to lose if the supremes rule in the farmer's favor.

The elite will see this as an act of war.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581969)

Isn't that like blaming the copyright holder for not controlling distribution?

FWIW, I am on the side of the people/farmers on this. There are too many problems with this genetically modified seed for it to be allowed to continue. There is a farmer's tradition of process and of course there is nature. But on top of that, breeding plants which create their own insecticide? Isn't it ALREADY creating super-bugs?

I would like to read what the Obama administration has to say about it and to hear what Romney would have to say about the issue as well. Other candidates would be great to hear from also, but the electoral colleges will not vote for anyone but the approved candidates selected from one of two parties.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (5, Insightful)

mindwhip (894744) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582249)

Isn't that like blaming the copyright holder for not controlling distribution?

It's more like a record company breaking into your home and replacing half your CDs with their own, then demanding 100x the value of the CD from everyone that complained to the police about the break in.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (4, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582291)

I think a better analogy would be for the record company to write viruses that automatically rewrite all of your music files with illegal versions, and then suing you for owning and listening to illegal versions of your music.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1, Troll)

Warhawke (1312723) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582383)

Except in this case it's like the record company suing you for burning a CD you downloaded from a grey-market source. Monsanto seed didn't "appear" on Bowman's land; he bought commodity seed and planted it without a contract with every intention of circumventing the Monsanto monopoly. The question, in copyright terms, is whether his use was a "fair use." Sort of.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (2)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582543)

When commodity seed contains so much protected content, it's not protected content anymore. The better analogy would be if you buy a Vanilla Ice CD and Queen sues Vanilla Ice for copyright infringement and wins. Then, later, you are sued for copyright infringement because you own a 3rd party copy of that infringement, even if you obtained the disk legally.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583177)

Unfortunately patents and copyrights are two different things.

Also, buying music and planting seeds are different because seeds reproduce.

However, they do so naturally.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (4, Informative)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583175)

The real infringer then would appear to be whoever sold the commodity seed to the farmer, as well as anyone between him and Monsanto in the supply chain that did not comply with their own license, if any.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (3, Informative)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582725)

breeding plants which create their own insecticide?

The seed in question here doesn't produce its own pesticide. Roundup Ready plants are engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

pgdave (1774092) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582811)

But on top of that, breeding plants which create their own insecticide?

My understanding is that the plants don't create their own insecticide. Rather they tolerate large doses of Roundup, which is a general-purpose insecticide that would normally kill the crop. Roundup has been available for decades. The danger here is that Roundup-ready seed contaminates other crops, and thus farmers are left with no choice but to use Monsanto's product to control weeds. A couple of problems arise; one: that the crop becomes a mono-culture, and two: because the crop is resistant to Roundup, farmers use too much of it to kill the weeds. That leads the to the classic evolutionary race of the weeds to themselves become 'Roundup-ready', and eventually be resistant to weed-killer. Monsanto don't even allow farmers to keep seed and resow next year; they insist that farmers buy fresh. They are definitely the baddies here, and need taking down.

Roundup in an herbicide. (1)

bdwoolman (561635) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583193)

A Roundup-ready plant is resistant to the herbicide Roundup. [scotts.com] The stuff kills the weeds, but not the crop. Good concept. Part of the green revolution to feed the planet. But I don't like the unrestricted patents, which should have expired by now --- for a lot of crops, anyway. This stuff has been around for years.

I think it was stupid to allow patents for genomes anyway. The self replicating device was found in nature. All that was done was to modify it. There is no invention. You could patent the original modification process, of course, but when the seed replicates itself it is using a process that is clearly not invention, but is, as I said, a process found in nature. Hopefully the court will see this. The current patent situation runs counter to the law's intent and stands firmly against the public good. And anyone with the common sense god gave a parakeet can see it. Okay evolution gave the parakeet its sense, but let's not open that can of soybeans. Okay?

This whole idea of patents for self-replicating devices should be very interesting when we make robots that can build copies of themselves.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582019)

I agree with you in principle, but it's probably a much harder legal argument.

Hey would have to establish all the elements of the tort of negligence against Monsanto
1) That Monsanto owed him a duty of care
2) That Monsanto breached that duty of care
3) That that breach was the proximate cause of harm
4) That he suffered actual harm

1&2 would be pretty dicey to claim since Monsanto has no contractual relationship with him, nor were they involved in how his fields were contaminated. There's really no precedent for this kind of thing since there has never been IP that reproduced of it's own will...

The effect of him winning would pretty much destroy Monsanto's GMO business model though. Then everyone could just claim that their fields were "contaminated" and therefore dont have to pay royalties.

I'm glad that the supremes are hearing it though... this really needs to be established.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582319)

'Every rapist could simply claim the victim consented'.
(And yes, the analogy is a bit silly)
However, intentionally planting it would remain a crime, as would not taking reasonable care.
Does it make the investigation more awkward - certainly.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582683)

The effect of him winning would pretty much destroy Monsanto's GMO business model though.

Hope springs eternal.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (2)

citizenr (871508) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582159)

After all, the manufacture, distribution and use of Monsanto's GM product is presumably regulated by some governmental agency? I tend to think that FDA is involved, at least?

I seem to remember FDA was directly prohibited from doing any research on gen. modified crops immediately after one of ex monsanto execs was granted government position.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (3, Insightful)

Pecisk (688001) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582231)

Care to reference URL for this claim? Would like to read about it.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (5, Informative)

Warhawke (1312723) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582379)

Incorrect. Monsanto seed did NOT drift onto Bowman's land without his knowledge or consent. Thus far, no such case has been litigated where seed drift or cross-pollination has occurred. Obviously that is a very big question that will come out of this ruling, should the court find for Monsanto, as it will arguably put the onus of burden on farmers to test for and destroy infringing crops caused by cross pollination. That issue, however, is not in debate here.

Bowman realized that a staggering percentage of soybean seeds on the commodity market were Roundup-Ready GM seeds. Normally a farmer has to sign a contract that he will not replant any additional seeds and will buy future generations of seeds from Monsanto. Replanting seeds for these farmers has not been considered a patent infringement but instead a contract violation. The patent infringement idea was unprecedented until this case. Bowman, who had not signed a Monsanto contract, simply decided to buy contract-free seeds on the commodity market, as Monsanto-contracted growers can sell the seeds they are not allowed to replant for general purposes such as food production. Bowman had the novel idea to take these seeds and plant them, spray the seeds with Roundup (thus killing off all the non-Roundup-Ready seeds), and have contract-free Roundup-ready seeds that he could replant at will. Monsanto, which monitors the purchase of Roundup to Roundup-ready seeds under contract, determined Bowman had purchased enough Roundup to be running an un-contracted operation. Unable to ping him on the contract issue, they requested him to stop. He refused, and they sued under the patent infringement theory.

The question that will be debated here is whether or not subsequent generations of Roundup-Ready crops, by the act of growing them, independently constitute patent infringement. Normally for infringement to occur there has to be some performative action. Monsanto is arguing (and the lower court agreed) that the performative act of planting the seeds in the first place is sufficient to transfer infringement to subsequent generations, and therefore the plants can essentially infringe upon each new growth without Bowman's performative action on subsequent growings.

It may seem pretty dumb, but it has the potential to majorly impact the food industry. If the court finds for Monsanto, the "auto-infringing crop" theory would make accidental infringers of any farmer who encountered cross-pollination or seed drift. Although no such cross-pollination has been successfully argued -- in all cases where farmers have brought this defense, it has been very well proven that they were lying through their teeth and had planted Monsanto crops in violation of their contract. Conversely, if the court finds for Bowman, this would in effect nullify Monsanto's patent protection on their seeds, as no farmer would buy from the developer, bound to a contract, where they could just go out and buy commodity seed at a fraction of the cost.

I've researched GMO patent intensively, written articles, and have followed the case for a while now. I think the one constant among GMO patent cases is that both sides -- Monsanto and farmers alike -- have done nothing but provide a tremendous amount of misinformation about the other side. No party line can be trusted. Monsanto argues that they're just trying to make a living and don't gouge anyone, being a humble food producer. Farmers argue that they're being put upon by the big corporate food monopoly and haven't done anything inappropriate other than try to grow organic foods. Both sides are lying and are trying to wage war to maximize their profits. Being as rabidly anti-DRM as we are, I suppose Slashdot readers will support the farmers. Either way, this issue is pretty big for determining whether the judiciary is embracing the pendulum swinging back to more restrictive patents or is continuing the trend of expansive patent protections.

Also worth noting, Monsanto's patents on Roundup-Ready soybeans are set to expire in the next few years, IIRC. The question is going to be entirely academic and legal and will likely have no effect on Roundup-ready crops at all after the patent expires.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (3, Informative)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582551)

2nd generation of seed non-conforming under patent aside, statutes under the commerce clause are what is at stake in this case.

Ruling for the patent holder enforces a restraint of trade eliminating free market economy in agri-business
AND
Upholding the patent establishes a ' fiat currency' whose store of value ( seed) and medium of exchange are enforced by law. SCOTUS
Ruling in favor of Monsanto will sanction a monopoly

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (3, Insightful)

Warhawke (1312723) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582601)

Agreed. But that is exactly what a patent enforces... a monopoly for a limited time. SCOTUS will not overturn on the monopoly issue alone, as Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution is explicitly clear on acknowledging a monopoly. It's likely gone too far in application, but patents are designed to restrain free market trade and to allow for a "currency" of sorts as upheld by law as well as to sanction a monopoly. The question, statutorily, is whether IP protection has gone too far and now enforces a monopoly no longer successful in promoting "useful arts and sciences" by rewarding innovation. Unfortunately, SCOTUS has been extremely shy of the issue, especially in copyrights (see Eldred v. Ashcroft). They will likely rule on the more narrow issue of subsequent generation/self-replicating infringement.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583013)

And that's precisely what patent law was written to provide. In legal terms, a patent holder monopoloy is completely legal and reasonable *unless* the patent holder engages in abusive behavior such as "dumping", deliberately lowering prices below profitable levels in markets where competitors enter to drive them out of business, or refusing to do business with vendors who also buy the competing product. This is part of what got Microsoft in trouble for monopoly violation, and it's precisely what the De Beers family does to manufacturers of synthetic diamonds.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582635)

It's fallacious reasoning to put the company Monsanto at one side of the story and 'the farmers', on the other side. Specifically, it's called a hasty generalization. There are many stories about farmers running into problems with Monsanto and you can't just claim that all those farmers are lying and just want to max profit. Talk to some Indian farmers for example, o wait, thousands of them have committed suicide after they got conned by Monsanto.

http://www.chrgj.org/publications/docs/every30min.pdf

http://naturalsociety.com/genetically-modified-foods/

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583141)

Bowman should win and this is exactly how intellectual property will work when patents and copyrights are eliminated. Contracts will rule and people that are not parties to the contract cannot be held responsible.

Take a DVD as an example. The company selling the DVD could make it a part of the contract to buy the DVD that the person wont copy it. But if someone copies the DVD and it becomes available no third party to the coping could be responsible. This puts the onerous of protecting the distribution of the media on the media company and not socialized.

Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583103)

The FDA's only involvement is in looking the other way after being paid off.

As for damages, Monsanto most likely will be off the hook because it was their client, and not Monsanto directly, that let the seeds loose.

And unfortunately as brain dead as the legal system is he will probably still be held liable for patent infringement.

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581823)

Maybe the Supreme Court will decide that patent rights do not apply to genetically modified organisms and that growing a plant is not a crime.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582251)

Maybe the Supreme Court will decide that patent rights do not apply to genetically modified organisms

Maybe.

and that growing a plant is not a crime.

Not gonna happen, smelly hippie; we'll jail your ass for your own good.

Monsanto is wrong (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581833)

They contaminated his crops with their seed. They owe him compensation.

When GM labelling comes in in California, he will have to label his crop as GM contaminated, and that will reduce his profits. He did not seek that contamination, Monsanto were lax about cross contamination.

It may be true that he grew more as a result, but that does not mitigate the damage they did. How is he supposed to know that the seeds he buys and plants are contaminated with GM seeds? In effect they're burdening ever farmer with a requirement to detect their GM crop contamination, as necessary for the GM labeling requirements.

Monsanto polluted the seed pool, and others should not pay for their pollution.

Re:Monsanto is wrong (1)

NettiWelho (1147351) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582023)

Whose fault is it that Monsanto can pull off these kind of shenanigans in court?

Re:Monsanto is wrong (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582029)

Didn't read TFA, did you?

They claim he's growing more beans than his seed purchase could have produced. Therefore he must have added the Roundup ones separately.

He says it was part of this mix. In that case, it would be the fault of whoever sold him the seed, logically, though legally is another matter.

TFA is confusing, but it seems he's also claiming an earlier court ruled that using the seeds to grow and produce new seeds, that the new seeds (used for yet another generation rather than sale) were infringing, presumably because he didn't sell them as food. This should be covered by current law, one would hope.

Please read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582405)

" Therefore he must have added the Roundup ones separately."
You added that interpretation, article doesn't say that, he specifically says they were part of the mix.

If Monsanto can't control their seeds then why should others pay to detect them? Every farmer would have to DNA test their crops to see if they're contaminated with patented material.

Re:Monsanto is wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582445)

Here is basic legal 101 info here relevant to this case. Each party has claims. Having a counterclaim in an issue does not invalidate the claim of the claimant.

>They contaminated his crops with their seed. They owe him compensation.

So no, that has nothing to do with a patent infringement.

What is going on then? Here it is:

Patent infringements occur in two forms (35 USC 271), (1) knowing infringement and (2) unknowing infringement. Independent invention does not obviate a patent - a person who avoids learning about any patents cannot avoid infringement by burying their head in the sand. Knowing infringement produces "treble damages", or three times the determined damages, so the default is unknowing.

Here, let's say the seed is mixed in and the farmer uses the Monsanto seed unknowingly. He can still be liable for infringement if (1) the patent is valid (2) he infringed the claim of the patent. Clearly he was found to have infringed in the lower court, so he has to attack the validity of the patent, or somehow show error in the infringement determination, or have an affirmative defense (ie. saying he infringed, but he has an excuse).

If you check the Reuters article, you will find that he is NOT claiming non-infringement. He is claiming that he infringed, but he has an affirmative defense by way of exhaustion of rights from the original sale. This is called the First Sale Doctrine. It says that when you sell a patented item the first time, you pass a license to downstream users because you were paid for your patent at the time of sale. So the farmer here is saying that he used the seed, but that First Sale Doctrine prevents Monsanto from bringing action on seeds that were previously sold.

The legal issue then is this: does patent exhaustion travel downstream from the first sale to subsequent seed purchases?
To figure this out, one needs to look at the patent license given with the sale of the seed, which means you need the Monsanto contract in front of you.

Therefore, anyone who claims that he is owed compensation, or that Monsanto has no claim, etc. really needs to understand that the case is about the license to the seed, not about infringement or whether the farmer has a counterclaim. Counterclaims are independently evaluated and do not affect the patent infringement. Now the fact that Monsanto polluted the seed does bring up the patent issue of "inducement" - you can't get damages from someone that you induced to infringe your patent. So the farmer probably brought that up as another defense.

The problem, as you can see, is that 99% of the general public don't understand the legal system, and then further don't understand the patent system enough to really comment on the outcomes at play. They just know how they feel about the situation. Gut feel doesn't always (and often does not) correspond to our laws.

Re:Monsanto is wrong (2)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582827)

The affirmative defense of the patent exhaustion stems from the fact that a) Monsanto explicitely allows the sale of Roundup Ready soybeans to grain elevators as commodity and b) he bought the seeds from the grain elevators als commodity seeds. So he argues that if the exhaustion doctrine does not cover this case, there is no point in even having an exhaustion doctrine in the first place:

Bowman further argues that if the right to use pat-ented seeds does not include the unlimited right to grow subsequent generations free of liability for patent in-fringement, then any exhaustion determination “is use-less.”

(quoting the CAFC opinion [uscourts.gov] )

Sue God (2)

terminal.dk (102718) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581841)

Since God used the first crop of seeds to produce new plants, I think the whole patent issue boils down to this infrigement made by nature or God. Since Monsanto can't sure nature, they will have go for the big man himself.
I think Monsanto needs to sue God or in his absence his nearest representative, the Pope, for making illegal copies of their seed.

Re:Sue God (4, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581851)

Romney is closer to God than the Pope.

Re:Sue God (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581881)

Ummmm actually - Romney and they Pope just like to think they are God.
    Whether you believe in him or not... They both blatently disobey many of his commands in the bible... (do not judge, do not lie, who ever does not help the poor and the sick will be cast into everlasting fire, give all your money to the poor and follow me - the list is VERY long) ... so they are either terrible sinners - or they are giving themselves absolution.

Re:Sue God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581925)

Wow, and not one of what you listed was a commandment.

Good troll, I wonder how many idiots you capture and convince this utter fabrication concerning the bible is legit?

Re:Sue God (2)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581973)

Not all of God's commands are commandments.

Re:Sue God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582141)

Wow, and not one of what you listed was a commandment.

Good troll, I wonder how many idiots you capture and convince this utter fabrication concerning the bible is legit?

Making up the bible as you go along is a 6000 year old tradition.

Re:Sue God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582341)

Though, that line about "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" guessed really well for this election season...

That line about the head wound recovery of the antichrist's compatriot was pretty good, too.

Re:Sue God (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582011)

They are not terrible sinners. They are very good ones. Same as most Christian fundamentalists. Those guys are all trying hard to find a way to get a camel through the eye of needle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle [wikipedia.org]

Re:Sue God (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581939)

You slag Romney (and I am no Republican either) , but when I heard Obama's slant on this and other things, I almost want Romney to win. At least he wouldn't lie about being a Democrat.

Re:Sue God (0)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581979)

Romney's underwear selection is based on God's word.

Re:Sue God (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582031)

Indeed, Mormons know what planet God is on: Kolob. Catholics have no clue.

LDS LSD:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ip6NKDAMYXQ [youtube.com]

Re:Sue God (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582303)

Indeed, Mormons know what planet God is on: Kolob

Sounds like a load of koloblers to me

Re:Sue God (1, Offtopic)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581929)

I tell the story of the genetic engineer I met who was so born again he didn't believe in evolution (true story). This happened in Saint. Louis. Guess where Monsanto's headquarters is? Yep, he worked for Monsanto. They have an inside line to God you know. It would be like suing themselves.

Re:Sue God (0)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582057)

Dude, that's fucking amazing. It's like refusing to believe in fire, when it is slowly roasting your testicles.

Re:Sue God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582871)

This is no more offtopic than the post it is replying to.

Re:Sue God (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582149)

And in any sane world God would be able to claim prior art.

Today's logo makes me cry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581863)

Today's slashdot logo is making a designer somewhere cry.

Re:Today's logo makes me cry (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582033)

It's fucking awesome dude! The only thing that would make it better is SPINNING SKULLS!

Original case. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581869)

Original case here. [supremecourt.gov]

SC Blog. (3, Informative)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581885)

SCOTUSblog [scotusblog.com]

Label It (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41581901)

If it's GM, I want it labeled as such. I want to know what I'm buying.

Ability to modify and resale (2)

lannocc (568669) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581955)

It seems earlier court decisions suggested that Monsanto had no rights after it made an initial sale. If this gets overturned then imagine the strengthening this might give to the First Sale Doctrine!

Politics in US (2, Funny)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41581963)

I am not surprised that a reactionary, right-wing administration would stand behind Monsanto.

Luckily, the elections are behind the corner and things are about to ch.. oh, shit!

Re:Politics in US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582015)

Luckily, the elections are behind the corner and things are about to ch.. oh, shit!

What are you complaining about? The US has two main choices just as always. In this case they are right-wing and extreme right-wing.

You F4il It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582009)

Numbers. The loos MAY BE HURTING you get Distracted Fear the reaper 80s, DARPA saw BSD

Actually a complex issue (1)

DL117 (2138600) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582059)

First of all, to get this out of the way-Monsanto is obviously quite amoral, and their business practices are largely indefensible. However, it's worth discussing the actual issues at hand here.

The legal issues are basically:
1. Is it infringement when contaminated seeds are planted unintentionally and they contain patented genetic engineering. I would say no, because my understanding is that the tort of infringement must be willful.(IANAL)
2.Does the right of first sale allow seeds to be reproduced to create more seeds for the use of the same former. A complex issue, I would guess probably not, legally.

The more commonly discussed issue though, is the ethics of GM food. I personally believe, very strongly, that genetically engineered food is good and desirable, since mankind has yet to grasp the whole 'birth control' concept, and likely never will. GM food also has a massive capacity for good, making food more nutritious and easier to grow.

Politically, I'm very far left, but I (unpopularly) believe that technology is often it's own solution. I'm as anti-Monsanto as everyone, but their business practices does not make their product evil, anymore than Microsoft's antitrust issues made the PC unethical. They are distinct issues.

Re:Actually a complex issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582299)

Their business practice may not make the technology evil but their products are the result of their business practices and are as evil and invasive as they come.

You can not plant their plants next to mine and prevent your plants from invading my field. This is plant rape! :)

Monsanto and Romney (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582133)

Well if Romney gets elected, he will be able to squash any slurs against the fabulous money making machine he helped setup and think of all those shareholders that need their dividends.

http://www.alternet.org/food/how-mitt-romney-and-bain-helped-grow-monsanto-biotech-giant [alternet.org]

Not exactly what Monsanto bargained for (1)

Pecisk (688001) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582173)

Monsanto is clearly bully here, because in any scenario, farmer didn't violate the contract, so they just showing their power.

However, this is more like contract dispute. Seems like company understood that they chances of going after farmer contract is close to null, so they decided to punish him by betting on their golden egg. That neatly opened unforseen posibility to challange seed (and any DNA, nano, etc.) patents in SCOTUS. Farmer didn't care about patents, he just wants not to pay for stuff he didn't violate. As usual, side effect of the rulling will be so much interesting for rest of us.

As for Obama administration - I still treat him as best option (not a US citizen, yeah I know all his weakneses), however, I'm really getting tired of carde blanche to IPR industry from all goverments. No matter who is elected all I hear that IPR must be protected at any cost. Without any critical analysis or thinking. IPR industry doesn't even have a third of exports or economy. Still, I think we need to fight this political way - informing, educating those politicans who we can reach (no, not everyone is deeply corrupt).

Don't own your own seeds .. (2, Interesting)

dgharmon (2564621) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582197)

The short version: Don't own his own seeds and once you buy Monsanto seeds they own your business ..

"A federal appeals court found that soybean farmer Vernon Bowman infringed on Monsanto patents when he planted second-generation soybeans [commondreams.org] that were the product of seeds he had purchased from Monsanto"

“contained” (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582213)

Those soybean seeds were a mix and included some that contained Monsanto's technology.

In much the same way that infants who survive a premature birth “contain” Dr. Tarnier’s incubator technology.

Not a legal question (4, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582221)

IANAL, but in this case that doesn't matter.

Lots of people here will argue the merits one way or another, adding ever more subtle points to a cauldron of legal opinion that attempts to guess the outcome... ...and it doesn't matter one whit.

Regardless of the law, the lower court decision cannot be allowed to stand simply as a matter of practicality. If it does, Monsanto stands to control virtually all farmland in America and put all farmers out of business. Monsanto would find itself in the position of controlling all food prices and dictating whatever terms it likes in the manner of process and production.

The simplest solution is to rule that, absent any contractual obligations, the patent holder's rights are exhausted after first sale of self-reproducing physical objects. For anything beyond this, the rules of contract law would apply. Farmers would be bound by whatever contracts they enter into with Monsanto.

Monsanto's mistake was in freely allowing the sale of the harvested seed. A second-generation-seed purchaser is under no contractual obligation to Monsanto because they didn't enter into a contract. If Monsanto wants this to happen differently, then they need to word the original contract in such a way that this can't happen - so that the original purchaser can't sell seed for replanting, for instance.

Monsanto winning this would be really, *really* bad.

Re:Not a legal question (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582325)

Monsanto's history of winning is really, really bad.

Monsanto needs to go away. Not only are they simply predatory, they are actually dangerous to the environment. Let's pretend that insecticide plants will never ever harm humans in any quantity. Let's just talk about the surviving insects who are developing immunity to the chemicals and becoming super-bugs. Will Monsanto be held liable for this creation of theirs?

Re:Not a legal question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582345)

Evolution is a lie from Hell. So Monsanto can't possibly be liable for the Devil's creation. Therefore they must win this case.

Re:Not a legal question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582913)

uh.. No.

They are becoming super bugs in the sense that they can eat roundup ready plants and not die. Its not like they now want to eat other crops EVEN MORE like some insatiable ravenous zombie bugs. I don't see how this changes anything other than that they can now digest a certain plant (again).

Re:Not a legal question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582603)

These are patents. You don't need to violate a contract to be sued.

Re:Not a legal question (2)

cashdot (954651) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583065)

It is again a problem with the US patent law.

In Europe, if you have a valid patent for a genetically engineered product, this patent only covers the result of the genetical engineering (i.e. what comes out of the lab), not the yield that is the result of natural self replication.

So even if someone deliberately sells "Monsanto seed", it is not a patent violation, provided that the seed is not produced by the genetical engineering process wich is covered by the patent.

Broken patent system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582293)

Patenting seeds which when growing inevitably distribute pollen uncontrolled to other fields demonstrates the limit of this patent system. Third party fields without a contract with Monsanto get involuntary contaminated. Ridiculous to grant a patent which inevitably messes up like this.

Of course, patents are valid! (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582397)

That does not mean, they should not be invalidated, and the practice banned.

Re:Of course, patents are valid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582527)

The fact that the patents were granted is not the same thing are the patents being valid. there was no new creation. When monsanto creates, from scratch a new gene and not just splicing in already existing genes from other lifeforms, they could have a valid, understandable patent on that gene, claiming ownership of a natural gene is retarded and cannot be protected by a patent, its kind of in the rules. But i can't remember the last time the US let that get in the way of profit

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41582473)

Obama is whored-out like all the other politicians.

Stupid question (2)

gaelfx (1111115) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582493)

I didn't RTFA, but I'm assuming that the summary is correct where it says the Obama administration was opposed to SCOTUS hearing the case. What reason did they give for the case not being heard?

Thomas should recuse himself (3, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#41582699)

Clarence Thomas used to work for Monsanto as an attorney in the 70s. I'm going to guess that a hypocrite won't really care about a little thing like conflict of interest.

It didn't stop him from ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

Re:Thomas should recuse himself (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41583039)

Ridiculous. By your logic, Kagan should recuse herself from any case where the federal government is a plaintiff. It didn't stop her from ruling on ACA. Take off your partisan blinders.

prediction (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41583079)

GMO patents will be upheld.

The elite have a lot at stake and aren't going to let the supremes derail their gravy train.

This will be a lesson to all under the grindstone not to trifle with the will of their betters. Got nailed with a federal precedent? Should have kept your mouth shut and left well enough alone instead of stirring up an even bigger hornet's nest.

I'm jaded due to experience, but still hopeful that I'm wrong.

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