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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. Now if he'd just stay there...

  2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

  3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

  4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

  5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

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