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High court rules against Indiana farmer in patent case

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The Supreme Court has sustained Monsanto Co.'s claim that an Indiana farmer violated the company's patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed-killer.

The justices, in a unanimous vote Monday, 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.

Justice Elena Kagan says a farmer who buys patented seeds must have the patent holder's permission. More than 90 percent of American soybean farms use Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" seeds, which first came on the market in 1996.

Monsanto has a policy to protect its investment in seed development that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year.

The case had been closely watched by researchers and businesses holding patents on DNA molecules, nanotechnologies and other self-replicating technologies. But Kagan said the court's holding only "addresses the situation before us."

Farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman bought the expensive, patented seeds for his main crop of soybeans, but decided to look for something cheaper for a risky, late-season soybean planting.

He went to a grain elevator that held soybeans it typically sells for feed, milling and other uses, but not as seed.

Bowman reasoned that most of those soybeans also would be resistant to weed killers, as they initially came from herbicide-resistant seeds too. He was right, and he repeated the practice over eight years. In 2007, Monsanto sued and won an $84,456 judgment.

Bowman said he should not be liable, in part, because soybeans naturally sprout when planted.

Kagan said the court did not buy that argument. "We think the blame-the-bean defense tough to credit," she said.

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  • No, Butt
    The trend to patent the genome is and will have real consequences not only on the food supply, but any number of medical procedures and therapies. The fact this has not been fully thought through, as well as the fact that a lot of this activity is subsidized by research funded by the feds and state universities, should make all thinking people pause.
  • Liberal Mentality
    So Betrn'u...You think that a company should invest millions of dollars in patents, labor, and technology and in processes that are saddled by time of the life cyle and have contracts and agreements with the end users only to have someone who basically now want this product for free? Thats stupid and socialistic. If there is a mononpoly then its because others are lazy or are working on their own patented products
  • better living thru...monopoly
    When a serial polluter becomes your go-to for your food... You finish the thought.

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  1. what Steve is doing and if he is on another radio station. That is the station I will listen to.

  2. From the story: "The city of Indianapolis also will consider tax incentives and funding for infrastructure required for the project, according to IEDC." Why would the City need to consider additional tax incentives when Lowe's has already bought the land and reached an agreement with IEDC to bring the jobs? What that tells me is that the City has already pledged the incentives, unofficially, and they just haven't had time to push it through the MDC yet. Either way, subsidizing $10/hour jobs is going to do nothing toward furthering the Mayor's stated goal of attracting middle and upper-middle class residents to Marion County.

  3. Ron Spencer and the entire staff of Theater on the Square embraced IndyFringe when it came to Mass Ave in 2005. TOTS was not only a venue but Ron and his friends created, presented and appeared in shows which embraced the 'spirit of the fringe'. He's weathered all the storms and kept smiling ... bon voyage and thank you.

  4. Not sure how many sushi restaurants are enough, but there are three that I know of in various parts of downtown proper and all are pretty good.

  5. First off, it's "moron," not "moran." 2nd, YOU don't get to vote on someone else's rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the US Constitution. That's why this is not a state's rights issue...putting something like this to vote by, well, people like you who are quite clearly intellectually challenged isn't necessary since the 14th amendment has already decided the issue. Which is why Indiana's effort is a wasted one and a waste of money...and will be overturned just like this has in every other state.

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