WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto on Monday over an Indiana farmer accused of having pirated the genetically modified crops developed by the agribusiness giant.
The high court’s unanimous decision focuses specifically on seed production, but experts say it may also have implications on intellectual property law in medicine, biotechnology and software.
The nine justices ruled that laws limiting patents do “not permit a farmer to reproduce patented seeds through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission.”
The crux of the argument was over “patent exhaustion,” which states that, after a patented item has been sold, the purchaser has “a right to use or resell that article,” Justice Elena Kagan explained in the court’s 10-page decision. “Such a sale, however, does not allow the purchaser to make new copies of the patented invention,” she added.
In a lawsuit filed in 2007, Monsanto had accused Vernon Hugh Bowman, a farmer, of infringing on its intellectual property rights by replanting, cultivating and selling herbicide-resistant soybean seeds it spent more than a decade developing.