Supreme Court upholds Monsanto patents

Published online: May 20, 2013
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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Monsanto can use patents to prevent farmers from planting later generations of genetically engineered seeds.

The case was brought by Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman who planted bin-run soybeans which turned out to be Roundup Ready and then saved seed from that crop to plant again, all without paying Monsanto licensing fees. Bowman claimed the patent should only apply to the first generation of a protected seed and that the seed replicated itself.

The high court ruled unanimously in favor of Monsanto saying Bowman had made unauthorized copies of a company's patented inventions. Two lower federal courts had also ruled against Bowman.

Justice Elena Kagen writing the opinion of the court stated "Bowman was not a passive observer of his soybeans' multiplication," adding it was Bowman, not the plant who controlled the reproduction to the eighth generation.

The case was viewed as a major test of not only patented seeds but other technologies as well, including cell lines computer software.