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PubPat Kills Four Key Monsanto Patents

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  • victory! (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Clockwork Troll (655321) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:28AM (#19980057) Journal
    VICTORY IS (nutra)SWEET.
  • Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:29AM (#19980065)
    It's about time - but attacking the patents one by one is not a real long term solution, changes to legislation is the only thing that can fix the problem of frivolous patents.
    • by BluBrick (1924)
      I wonder if it's possible to prevent frivolous patents by increasing the cost of patents. Perhaps they could institute a sliding scale for the cost of patents. e.g. For each patent applied for, the fee shall be $n for 1-10 patents held 10*$n for 11-50 patents held 100*$n for 51-100 patents held 1000*$n for 101-500 patents held 10000*$n for 501-1000 patents held 100000*$n for 1001-5000 patents held 1000000*$n for 5001-10000 patents held and so on... I don't know
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        the problem with this is patents main goal is to protect little guys who come up with a good idea and want to stop someone else stealing it.

        increasing the cost of something will never stop companys with GDP's larger then many countries. you think a million dollars for a patent on a crop is a problem? fuck bio research companys SHIT $1000000 bricks, they will view it as a minor cost.

        the only way to prevent frivolous patents, is to put a very short time frame on profiting from a patent. say i come up with a

        • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

          by fermion (181285) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:23AM (#19982375) Homepage Journal
          Another way to look at patents is as a mechanism to facilitate the transfer of ideas to the public domain. Such a view is supported by the traditional requirement that a patent be detailed enough so someone versed in the appropriate techniques could reproduce the object being patented.

          Here are the two current options for an inventor. The first is to keep the process secret, and try to sell enough product before it is reversed engineered. Such an approach not only wastes a societies resources by shifted creative power from new problems to problems that have already been solved, but provides little predictability for business.

          The second option is the patent. Put the details of the product out in the public. Accept the protection of the government for 10 years. This gives a predictable interval in which to market the product. It also gives a predictable interval in which to improve the product so it can compete with any copies that might eventually be placed on the market. In exchange for such protection, other can use the ideas to develop new non-competing products immediately, and eventually develop copies of the product for wider consumption. This is a win/win for everyone as the inventor has time to exploit the product commercially, especially in today's mass produced market, and society is allowed to exploit the idea intellectually.

          Here is why I disagree with protecting the little guy, or anyone for that matter. First, it is difficult to define. A patent may be granted to a little guy, who may grow into a big guy or sell to a big guy. Is the patent to depend on this? Second, such reasoning lends itself to extend the period of patents, and even copyright for that matter. I would argue that given the reduction in production times, the patent and copyright time should be reduced, or altered based on production dates. For instance a drug might take 5-10 years to enter mass production, and therefore might need a longer patent, but one can imagine all sorts of other products that might only require a five year patent. Likewise, it is inconceivable that Disney has not already exploited the derivitive characters fully, and those characters should be put back in the public domain.

          By focusing on return on investment, rather than encouraging innovation in society, one gets into the situation where IP does in fact halt innovation, especially where a five year product cycle seems long.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rben (542324)
        I have a different proposal, but I'm sure it has some problems I haven't thought of. How about you require all patent holders to license rights to their patents to anyone who pays a "fair and reasonable" royalty. (Determining that royalty is the sticky part.) This would insure that the patent holder got paid for their work developing the invention, and that there would be competition. It would end all these idiotic monopolies that distort our economy and allow free competition once more.

        The problem with pat
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eric76 (679787)
      My suggestions for patent reform:

      1) Toss out the entire patent if any claims are disallowed. The applicant can start over from scratch and refile. If disallowed a second time, do not permit the applicant to file on the patent or any variation of it ever again. This would encourage the applicant to be very conservative in what he claims.

      2) Remove the exclusitivity part of the notion of patents. Everyone who independently invents the same thing could get their own patent with the right to use, manufacture
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:29AM (#19980071)
    Monopolies are at best bad for the market, and at worst bad for Humanity. In this case, Monsanto's monopolizing has caused a lot of grief for many traditional farmers who save the previous year's crop seeds [i-sis.org.uk]. This kind of thing really makes me sick.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Umbral Blot (737704)
      I hate to be a jerk, but I have to question why the farmers just don't stick to their traditional crops (versus the GM versions) if Monsanto is so horrible. Not one is forcing them to buy GM seeds (they could have kept saving and resuing their old seeds forever, without having to buy anything from Monsanto). So either buying Monsanto seeds isn't a losing deal (i.e. the farmers still make more money than they would have otherwise) or the farmers have poor judgement. Am I missing something?
      • by jimicus (737525)
        There have been cases where farmers who didn't think they were growing Monsanto GM crops were rather shocked to find that actually, they were. Cross-pollination from a neighbours field, see.

        This didn't stop Monsanto from suing such farmers into the ground.
      • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:27AM (#19980583) Journal
        The output of the GM crops are that much better. Thats why. When you spend X dollars to plant on the finite amounts of land you have control over and can plant the GM crops that not only increase yields by 30+ percent but cut cost on the X figures by needing less chemicals or pesticides the amount of monetary advantage they present is almost insane.

        The people who are using the regular crops are traditionalist or people who see a use/market for the crops. Most of the people I know who are against the GM crops and are actually farmers are in that position because of the contracts and not any perceived threats from the genetic managment of the seeds. They don't like the idea of having to pay extra for seeds if they have a bad year.
        • short-sighted (Score:5, Interesting)

          by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @05:10AM (#19980763)
          If GM crops nudge out the conventional ones, eventually we'll be in a position where a company can starve millions of people to death at will. Legally. And since capitalism essentially equates morality with legality and profitability, who will really argue with them? People really, really need to watch The Corporation [amazon.com]. I'm all about making a buck, but we really, really need re re-evaluate what we let corporations get away with. Do even the most materialistic among us really want a private corporation owning not only the food, but the capacity of the plants to reproduce?
          • Re:short-sighted (Score:5, Insightful)

            by NearlyHeadless (110901) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @05:55AM (#19980987)

            If GM crops nudge out the conventional ones, eventually we'll be in a position where a company can starve millions of people to death at will. Legally.


            That's just silly. There are lots of different kinds of seeds and lots of different kinds of crops. The patents in this case would all expire by 2011 even if they are eventually found valid.
            • by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @07:48AM (#19981579)

              If GM crops nudge out the conventional ones, eventually we'll be in a position where a company can starve millions of people to death at will. Legally.
              That's just silly. There are lots of different kinds of seeds and lots of different kinds of crops. The patents in this case would all expire by 2011 even if they are eventually found valid.
              A Union of Concerned Scientists study [ucsusa.org] found that of "non-GM" seed stock tested in the U.S., 50% of the corn, 50% of the soybeans, and 83% of the canola were already cross-contaminated with GM material. If Monsanto had their way, anyone using that cross-contaminated seed would have to be paying them for a license if the patent belonged them. When that number reaches 100%, it'd basically be pay Monsanto or you can't farm.

              I am not against patents on an innovate breed of crop manufactured through genetic engineering per se. But the way Monsanto is pursuing farmers right now would be like if the RIAA demanded you pay for a copy of a CD whenever someone listening to a song simply drove by you in his car with his windows open. If Monsanto wants the benefit of patent-backed monopoly pricing on their product, then the onus should be on them to insure that people wishing to opt out of that monopoly have a clear means to do so.

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by drew (2081)

                But the way Monsanto is pursuing farmers right now would be like if the RIAA demanded you pay for a copy of a CD whenever someone listening to a song simply drove by you in his car with his windows open.


                Believe me, if they thought they had a reliable way to keep track of that, they'd be doing it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by wwahammy (765566)
            I think that's an unrealistic result. All international patent agreements allow countries to ignore patents in national emergencies (which South Africa and Brazil have done regarding AIDS drugs). Additionally, as another replier said, the patents just don't last that much longer even if they are valid. On top of that, there's nothing preventing a farmer for getting any number of older crops that yield nearly as well.

            I tend to think the patent system should be scrapped but I don't think we're at immediate ri
      • Feudalism... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @05:18AM (#19980799)

        I hate to be a jerk, but I have to question why the farmers just don't stick to their traditional crops (versus the GM versions) if Monsanto is so horrible. Not one is forcing them to buy GM seeds (they could have kept saving and resuing their old seeds forever, without having to buy anything from Monsanto). So either buying Monsanto seeds isn't a losing deal (i.e. the farmers still make more money than they would have otherwise) or the farmers have poor judgement. Am I missing something?

        It seems to me that a lot of them are pretty much suckered into it. They are made to think that this is the latest thing in modern agriculture and that it will benefit them with higher crop yields and thus higher profit margins. To people who are often already having trouble turning a profit this is hard to refuse. Not that is easy to get your hands on unmodified seed stock any more. To add insult to injury even if you inadvertently planted GM seeds you are also fucked. To quote TFA:

        American farmers are hard pushed to find high quality, conventional varieties of corn, soy and cottonseed. Anecdotal evidence supports this. Troy Roush, an Indiana soybean farmer says, "You can't even purchase them in this market. They are not available." Similar reports come from the corn and cotton farmers who say, "There are not too many seeds available that are not genetically altered in some way.".....

        .....Farmers are under pressure to confirm their identity as modern agriculturalists, particularly in developing countries. But replacing the traditional strategy of saving and replanting seeds from diverse varieties by a patented seed with all its restrictions threatens food security at household and global levels......

        .....A further example is seed dealers who sell seeds in plain brown bags so farmers sow them unknowingly. This happened to Farmer Thomason who was harassed into court by Monsanto and sued for over a million dollars. He had no choice but to file for bankruptcy despite never intending to plant Bt cotton.

        Here's another choice quote:

        Researchers at the University of Manitoba, Canada tested 33 samples of certified canola (oilseed rape) seed stock and 32 were contaminated with GM. The Union of Concerned Scientists tested traditional US seed stocks of corn, soy and canola and found 50% corn, 50% soy and 83% canola contaminated by GM.

        One hundred percent purity is no longer achievable, and even if non-contaminated seed could be purchased, some contamination can take place in the field either by transfer of seed by wind, animals or via farm equipment.

        Monsanto dominates the sale of seed stocks yet puts the onus of finding markets for crops on the farmer. Within their contract is the "Technology Use Guide" which gives directions on how to find grain handlers willing to accept crops not approved for use in the EU. While Monsanto acknowledges that pollen flow and seed movement are sufficient to contaminate neighbouring non-GM fields their implicit rule is that "the growers of the non-GM crops must assume responsibility and receive the benefit for ensuring that their crops meet specifications for purity.".....

        .....Outcomes of lawsuits brought by Monsanto against farmers are mostly kept under wraps. If farmers are tempted to breach confidentiality they can face fines greater than the settlements. But where judgments have been publicly recorded, sizeable payments benefit not only Monsanto, but also partner companies.

        Combined financial penalties have forced many farmers into bankruptcy and off their land. Agriculture is suffering losses all around because of the disappearance of foreign markets. The US Farm Bureau estimates that farmers lose over $300 million a year because European markets refuse GM corn. The US State Department says that as much as $4 billion could be lost in agricultural exports due to EU labelling and traceability requirements. Organic and conventional farmers

    • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:23AM (#19980565)
      Monopolies are at best bad for the market

      The whole point of a patents system is limited monopolies to help the market. Without such a system, there's nothing stopping me from spending 10 years in a shed developing a revolutionary new vacuum cleaner, bringing it to market - and then you waltzing into a shop, buying one, copying it and selling it for half the price I do.

      The point of a capitalist society is that the "10 years in a shed" bit gets rewarded with a time-limited monopoly, so instead of simply putting up with the status quo and accepting that all vacuum cleaners suck (if you'll pardon the pun), I have an incentive to do something about it above and beyond "making my house 4% cleaner".

      Where monopolies do harm the market is where the system is abused. The obvious solution to that is a system which isn't terribly open to abuse. Many of today's patent laws were put together at a time when nobody imagined that a company might patent a genetically modified seed and then sue farmers for saving some from last years' crop for this year, or that a huge economy around software (which changes far faster than many other fields of innovation, and is thus not well served by 15-20 year monopolies) would develop.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The whole point of a patents system is limited monopolies to help the market.

        That's the intent, to be sure, but I think the parent's claim is that patents fail to achieve this.

        Without such a system, there's nothing stopping me from spending 10 years in a shed developing a revolutionary new vacuum cleaner, bringing it to market - and then you waltzing into a shop, buying one, copying it and selling it for half the price I do.

        That's the scenario patent advocates love to trot out, but try offering concrete e

        • Mod parent up. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MagikSlinger (259969)

          That's the scenario patent advocates love to trot out, but try offering concrete examples and statistics, not hypotheticals. (Such as how patents allowed James Watt to retard the progress of the steam engine for decades, perhaps?)

          I'm glad someone brought that up. When the patent expired, the efficiency of the steam engine shot up (see parent's link). And without patents, people still innovate because they need to make a buck. They just find other ways to get more value out of their invention. One wa

  • be fruitful....... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by innatetech (1132729)
    and propagate. http://science.howstuffworks.com/cloning1.htm [howstuffworks.com]
  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:46AM (#19980143) Homepage Journal
    Patenting / copyright / other methods to articifially control something being copied are STUPID when applied to an entity who's sole purpose is to make copies of itself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      Heh, attempting to turn any non-rivalrous good into a rivalrous good is doomed to failure.

    • Purpose? Bacteria don't have a purpose they just do what they do. Besides, suppose a company finally succeded in creating a 3d printer capable of printing itself. Would that really make it suddenly unworthy of patent protection.

      This is all irrelevant to the question that matters: Is the harm caused by giving one company a monopoly worth the benefits gained from incentivizing research. Now likely this calculation comes out against patents on naturally occurring genes since it is likely to encourage blank
      • by nagora (177841)
        Purpose? Bacteria don't have a purpose they just do what they do.

        I think it's a given that the purpose of any biological system is to reproduce; mules are a freak.

        I don't see any different between patenting instructions for the biological machines in our cells and for the silicon machines in our computers.

        Indeed: patenting software is a bad idea whatever the context.

        Maybe we will get lucky and the net effect will be to take software from copyright protection and put it under patent protection

        That's t

  • by hxnwix (652290)
    I, for one, welcome our emasculated overlords.
  • Patents in question (Score:5, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:03AM (#19980247)

    5164316: DNA construct for enhancing the efficiency of transcription

    5196525: DNA construct for enhancing the efficiency of transcription

    5322938: DNA construct for enhancing the efficiency of transcription

    5352605: Chimeric genes for transforming plant cells using viral promoters

    Yes, the first three have the same title. I haven't read any of them yet. You can find the full text on the USPTO web site. Search by patent number here [uspto.gov].

  • by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:23AM (#19980337) Journal
    70% of the Indian population is dependant on agriculture for their livelihood - it was closer to 80% a few decades ago. Monsanto has tied up with Indian companies, and it's business practices have driven several hundreds of farmers to debts and suicide. BT (Biologically Treated) cotton from Mahyco (if I remember right) has caused havoc in farmers' lives in several Indian states.

    Monsanto specialises in technologies that make farmers dependant on these firms every year for seeds and patented techniques. Not only should such patents be outlawed; it should be made a crime to work against nature and create genetic modifications that prevent seeds from germinating.
    • Patents aside that's just how captialism works, if you can make money creating seeds that don't germinate then someone will. Trying to regulate that away just isn't going to work, for example it might scare companies away from making genetically modified crops, and with our growing population (world wide) we desperately need more and better genetically modified crops. Instead of complaining take a page from the open source movement: make your own genetically modified crops and don't prevent them from repr
      • by jkrise (535370)
        Patents aside that's just how captialism works

        Captialism is not the answer for all problems facing humanity. In fact, many of the most keenly felt problems afflicting humankind are a direct result of capitalism. People do not die for lack of capital, millions die every year for want of seeds (food).

        if you can make money creating seeds that don't germinate then someone will.
        If it is made a capital offence to do so, that would be an effective deterrent.

        Trying to regulate that away just isn't going to work
  • by beanless (1132589) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:39AM (#19980395)
    I've read reports of farmers being sued by Monsanto because their crops get contaminated by GM strains via wind, animals, or farm equipment. Could the farmers sue Monsanto for polluting their crops' gene pool?
  • by cromano (162540) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @05:13AM (#19980771) Homepage
    For an interesting look at the Monsanto history, GM foods, gene patenting, risks and impact across North America, I recommend you watch the documentary "The Future of Food" (torrent [isohunt.com]).

    Description:

    THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.

    From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

    Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, THE FUTURE OF FOOD examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today.

    IMDB link. [imdb.com] ... and don't get me started on the "terminator gene".

    -Sin Maíz no hay País-

    • by calcapt (975466) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @08:14AM (#19981769)
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/ [pbs.org]

      Harvest of Fear is a documentary on GMOs as well, produced by PBS. If anyone watches Future of Food, they should watch Harvest of Fear. This is primarily because I thought Future of Food (as another reply to this parent pointed out) seems to have been designed to scare the viewer shitless. Harvest of Fear, on the other hand, provides arguments and counter arguments for nearly every topic brought up, without the dramatics and theatrics featured in the Future of Food. You might find yourself agreeing with one viewpoint, and another take on that viewpoint will be brought up, and it gets you thinking.

      In any case, it's good to watch the 2 and compare/contrast the views.
  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @07:18AM (#19981395) Journal
    It always bothers me when I see a patriotic rallying cry that points out the pain to "Americans". Are you saying it wouldn't be so bad/unethical if the companies were harming non-Americans?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shados (741919)
      At first glance (I didnt read the article), I'd be saying the patents in question were american awarded ones, yes? If so, then it would be a bit hard to use said patents to hurt non-americans. In the same way if Monsanto had patents (maybe they do!) in, let say, australia, it would be correct to say they would be used to hurt and bankrupt australian farmers, no?
    • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:50AM (#19984233) Journal

      Are you saying it wouldn't be so bad/unethical if the companies were harming non-Americans?

      US Patents only apply in the US, in other words, to AMERICANS. These US Patents have nothing to do with non-Americans, except perhaps very few immigrants, if you want to get pedantic.

  • The problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandersen (462034) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @08:08AM (#19981715)
    Having looked through some of the responses I can see that this debate has become one about GM as much as one about abuse of frivolous patents.

    GM first - the main problem I see with GM crops is not so much that "it is unnatural" and therefore harmful. Philosophically speaking, nothing we do is unnatural - it all follows the laws of nature, even if it isn't always good for us. That's an aside, though - the real problem is more one of genetic pollution. Never mind they say that it doesn't happen "very often", whatever that means; the basic idea with the gene modifications we see from the likes of Monsanto is to create a plant that has some sort of advantage, in a very narrow sense, over unmodified plants - once the modified gene escapes into the wild, which it will unless the modified plants are unable to reproduce sexually (and what is the point of corn that doesn't produce seeds?) - once the genes escape, we don't know what will happen. Perhaps the genes that were a moderate afvantage for a crop plant turns out to be a huge advantage for a wild species, and suddenly we have a big problem on our hands; we simply don't know, and we have no way of reliably assessing the risk. This however, is the least of the problems.

    The real problem, as Monsanto shows us, is that these patents it will be used as a weapon by multinational corporations; it gives them power far beyond what is reasonable, and on a very dubious foundation. The likely truth is that no matter which genes any company "invents", they already exist somewhere in nature; in light of this I think the law should be changed, at least for genes - either it should rest on the company to prove that their invention is a real invention, or it should simply be impossible to patent genes.

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