The Supreme Court said Monday that an Indiana farmer violated Monsanto Co.’s patents on soybean seeds resistant to its weed-killer by growing the beans without buying new seeds from the corporation.
The justices unanimously rejected the farmer’s argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide.
While Monsanto won this case, the court refused to make a sweeping decision that would cover other self-replicating technologies like DNA molecules and nanotechnologies, leaving that for another day. Businesses and researchers had been closely watching this case in hopes of getting guidance on patents, but Justice Elena Kagan said the court’s holding Monday only “addresses the situation before us.”
In a statement, Monsanto officials said they were pleased with the court’s ruling.
“The court’s ruling today ensures that longstanding principles of patent law apply to breakthrough 21st century technologies that are central to meeting the growing demands of our planet and its people,” said David F. Snively, Monsanto’s top lawyer. “The ruling also 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.”
The soybean case is Bowman v. Monsanto Co., 11-796.