Monsanto wins patent court case against US farmer

Multinational seed company Monsanto has won a landmark court case against a US farmer, after he failed to pay royalties for the patented genetically modified (GM) seed he planted.

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 Farmer Vernon Bowman will now have to pay US$84 000 (almost R806 400) in damages to Monsanto. The case arose after Bowman replanted seed that was held back from his first soya crop that contained Monsanto’s patent protected GM technology. The farmer argued that he was not violating the company’s patent because he had already purchased the progeny seeds and therefore Monsanto no longer held a claim over the product. His defence invoked the “first-sale” or “patent exhaustion” doctrine, which states that once a product has been sold companies no longer have control over their products.

However the US Supreme Court ruled that farmers may not use a patented seed for more than one planting.

Monsanto released a statement saying that the judgement was crucial as it provided an incentive to all inventors throughout the public and private sectors that they can and should continue to invest in innovation that feeds people, improves lives and creates jobs.

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However Bowman’s attorney, Mark Walters, argued that the ruling was not in line with current farming practices. Speaking to Reuters, Walters said that the ruling “makes infringers out of 95% of America’s soybean farmers.”