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US Supreme Court Agrobiotech Decision Released; The Court Upholds Biotech Patent Rights, For Now

5/13/2013
The US Supreme Court today issued their decision in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., upholding the patent rights of the agrobiotech company Monsanto because, according to Justice Kagan, "By planting and harvesting Monsanto’s patented seeds, Bowman made additional copies of Monsanto’s patented invention, and his conduct thus falls outside the protections of patent exhaustion. Were this otherwise, Monsanto’s patent would provide scant benefit." The technologies at issue are critical to the biotechnology industry - replicative technologies, such as plants and seeds - however, more fundamental molecular biologic inventions were also involved. In this case, the question was whether the Roundup Ready™ seeds purchased by a farmer from a grain elevator shielded him from patent infringement under the first sale doctrine. The Court found that the farmer's first purchase of such seed did not prevent him from infringing. The full opinion is available online here.