U.S. Supreme Court Invites Solicitor General to Brief Patent Infringement Case Against Indiana Farmer Over Second Generation Seed

Washington, D.C. – The United State Supreme Court has invited the U.S. Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the view of the United States government on a patent infringement case that has been submitted to the Court on a petition of certiorari. Patent lawyers for Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman have filed a petition for certiorari requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review the adverse decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which held that Bowman had infringed the patents of the Monsanto Company of St. Louis, Missouri by using second generation seeds.

In 2007, patent attorneys for Monsanto had filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Mr. Bowman infringed patent no. 5,352,605, Chimeric genes for transforming plant cells using viral promoters and RE39,247E, GLYPHOSATE-TOLERANT 5-ENOLPYRUVYLSHIKIMATE-3-PHOSPHATE SYNTHASES, which has been issued by the US Patent Office. The patents at issue cover different aspects of genetically-modified “Roundup Ready┬«” soybeans that are resistant to certain herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup┬« product.

According to the Federal Circuit Court’s opinion, all growers of the Roundup Ready soybeans must sign a limited use license, called a Technology Agreement. The agreement restricts the use of the seed to a single season and does not allow the grower to save any seed from the crop produced to plant the next season. However, the agreement allows growers to sell the second-generation seeds to local grain elevators as “commodity seeds.” Farmer Bowman purchased some of these commodity seeds, planted and produced a crop from them. Mr. Bowman then retained some of the seeds from the commodity seed crop and replanted them the next year.

Chief Judge Richard L. Young of the Southern District of Indiana found that Farmer Bowman had infringed the Monsanto’s patents and entered a judgment in the amount of $84,456.20 in favor of Monsanto. The Federal Circuit Court affirmed. Mr. Bowman’s petition of certiorari asked the Court to review this decision. At this point, the Supreme Court has not decided whether it will hear the merits of the case.

Practice Tip: Fewer than 2% of certiorari petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court are accepted for review by the Court. The fact that the Court has requested the U.S. Solicitor General to brief this case suggests that the Court is taking interest in Bowman’s petition.

This case is assigned Case No. 11-796 in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monsanto- Court of Appeals

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