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Biotech The Courts Technology

Supreme Court To Decide If Monsanto GMO Patents Are Valid 308

tomhath writes with this exerpt from a Reuters story: "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear an Indiana farmer's appeal that challenges the scope of Monsanto Co.'s patent rights on its Roundup Ready seeds. Mr. Bowman bought and planted 'commodity seeds' from a grain elevator. Those soybean seeds were a mix and included some that contained Monsanto's technology. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case over the objections of the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to leave the lower court rulings in place."
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Supreme Court To Decide If Monsanto GMO Patents Are Valid

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:01AM (#41581805)

    Wait for the food monopolies... oh wait, they're already here.

  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:05AM (#41581819)
    After all, the manufacture, distribution and use of Monsanto's GM product is presumably regulated by some governmental agency? I tend to think that FDA is involved, at least? Monsanto's seed got onto that farmer's land without his knowledge or consent, and the potential damages he could suffer as a result of Monsanto's technology being inadvertently deployed on his land are demonstrably quite large. The ultimate fault is Monsanto's, for failing to adequately control their genetically modified produce's growth and proliferation.
  • Monsanto is wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:10AM (#41581833)

    They contaminated his crops with their seed. They owe him compensation.

    When GM labelling comes in in California, he will have to label his crop as GM contaminated, and that will reduce his profits. He did not seek that contamination, Monsanto were lax about cross contamination.

    It may be true that he grew more as a result, but that does not mitigate the damage they did. How is he supposed to know that the seeds he buys and plants are contaminated with GM seeds? In effect they're burdening ever farmer with a requirement to detect their GM crop contamination, as necessary for the GM labeling requirements.

    Monsanto polluted the seed pool, and others should not pay for their pollution.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:43AM (#41581969) Homepage

    Isn't that like blaming the copyright holder for not controlling distribution?

    FWIW, I am on the side of the people/farmers on this. There are too many problems with this genetically modified seed for it to be allowed to continue. There is a farmer's tradition of process and of course there is nature. But on top of that, breeding plants which create their own insecticide? Isn't it ALREADY creating super-bugs?

    I would like to read what the Obama administration has to say about it and to hear what Romney would have to say about the issue as well. Other candidates would be great to hear from also, but the electoral colleges will not vote for anyone but the approved candidates selected from one of two parties.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:53AM (#41582019)

    I agree with you in principle, but it's probably a much harder legal argument.

    Hey would have to establish all the elements of the tort of negligence against Monsanto
    1) That Monsanto owed him a duty of care
    2) That Monsanto breached that duty of care
    3) That that breach was the proximate cause of harm
    4) That he suffered actual harm

    1&2 would be pretty dicey to claim since Monsanto has no contractual relationship with him, nor were they involved in how his fields were contaminated. There's really no precedent for this kind of thing since there has never been IP that reproduced of it's own will...

    The effect of him winning would pretty much destroy Monsanto's GMO business model though. Then everyone could just claim that their fields were "contaminated" and therefore dont have to pay royalties.

    I'm glad that the supremes are hearing it though... this really needs to be established.

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @03:51AM (#41582221) Homepage Journal

    IANAL, but in this case that doesn't matter.

    Lots of people here will argue the merits one way or another, adding ever more subtle points to a cauldron of legal opinion that attempts to guess the outcome... ...and it doesn't matter one whit.

    Regardless of the law, the lower court decision cannot be allowed to stand simply as a matter of practicality. If it does, Monsanto stands to control virtually all farmland in America and put all farmers out of business. Monsanto would find itself in the position of controlling all food prices and dictating whatever terms it likes in the manner of process and production.

    The simplest solution is to rule that, absent any contractual obligations, the patent holder's rights are exhausted after first sale of self-reproducing physical objects. For anything beyond this, the rules of contract law would apply. Farmers would be bound by whatever contracts they enter into with Monsanto.

    Monsanto's mistake was in freely allowing the sale of the harvested seed. A second-generation-seed purchaser is under no contractual obligation to Monsanto because they didn't enter into a contract. If Monsanto wants this to happen differently, then they need to word the original contract in such a way that this can't happen - so that the original purchaser can't sell seed for replanting, for instance.

    Monsanto winning this would be really, *really* bad.

  • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @03:57AM (#41582231)

    Care to reference URL for this claim? Would like to read about it.

  • by mindwhip ( 894744 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:02AM (#41582249)

    Isn't that like blaming the copyright holder for not controlling distribution?

    It's more like a record company breaking into your home and replacing half your CDs with their own, then demanding 100x the value of the CD from everyone that complained to the police about the break in.

  • by jkflying ( 2190798 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:13AM (#41582291)

    I think a better analogy would be for the record company to write viruses that automatically rewrite all of your music files with illegal versions, and then suing you for owning and listening to illegal versions of your music.

  • by Warhawke ( 1312723 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:30AM (#41582601)
    Agreed. But that is exactly what a patent enforces... a monopoly for a limited time. SCOTUS will not overturn on the monopoly issue alone, as Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution is explicitly clear on acknowledging a monopoly. It's likely gone too far in application, but patents are designed to restrain free market trade and to allow for a "currency" of sorts as upheld by law as well as to sanction a monopoly. The question, statutorily, is whether IP protection has gone too far and now enforces a monopoly no longer successful in promoting "useful arts and sciences" by rewarding innovation. Unfortunately, SCOTUS has been extremely shy of the issue, especially in copyrights (see Eldred v. Ashcroft). They will likely rule on the more narrow issue of subsequent generation/self-replicating infringement.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:49AM (#41582699) Homepage

    Clarence Thomas used to work for Monsanto as an attorney in the 70s. I'm going to guess that a hypocrite won't really care about a little thing like conflict of interest.

    It didn't stop him from ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

  • by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:58AM (#41582751) Journal

    since there was an article recently showing that both the GMO strain and roundup itself cause cancer.

    The research methods used in that article have been criticised by a lot of people. Not all published scientific articles are correct.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:42AM (#41582977) Journal

    And in light of this, we should ask again why anybody would be expected to vote for him... Oh yeah... something about lizards..

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there are at least two other people on the ballot... Maybe we ought to give one of them a shot and see what happens. I doubt they could do much worse, but we'll never know if we don't try. Like the lottery, you can't win if you don't play.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:52AM (#41583039)

    Ridiculous. By your logic, Kagan should recuse herself from any case where the federal government is a plaintiff. It didn't stop her from ruling on ACA. Take off your partisan blinders.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @07:08AM (#41583135)

    Because it isn't about sexualising Santa Clause (who isn't part of a religion either, so double fail there).

    But since you SAW it as such, this must mean you see EVERYTHING as religious.

    Ergo proving you are the religious nutjob.

  • by Anarchy24 ( 964386 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @07:26AM (#41583247) Homepage
    Obama does suck, but Mitt Romney is a far more dangerous choice - not so much because of his policies, but because the far-right Republican party would have control of at least one, and possibly both houses of Congress. They are a party of war-mongers, elitists who favor the rich, and have a downright hatred of government. Their extremist social policies seek to enforce a "Christian nation" "as the founders intended".

    Mitt Romney is willing to say and do ~anything~ to get elected. He has no principles. And based on the positions that he -has- taken, he wants a regressive tax system where the "job creators" (aka rich people) are taxed very little, and us non-rich (aka moochers) have to "pay our fair share". He has pandered to Israel and repeatedly shown during his trips overseas, that he has no understanding of foreign policy or affairs, and makes brash, off-the-cuff remarks that can be seen as aggressive and undisciplined.

    This man is extremely dangerous not only for America, but for the entire world. Obama might not be any good, but Romney will destroy the American dream, and several other countries along with it.
  • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:00AM (#41583481) Journal

    Look, Monsanto is a horrible horrible company - but the cancer study stuff was flawed.
    They should be brought down for patent shakedowns, but the cancer thing wasn't really proven conclusively in any fashion from that study.

  • by yndrd1984 ( 730475 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:04AM (#41583517)

    both the GMO strain and roundup itself cause cancer

    Glyphosate (sold under several brand names, including "Roundup") has been used worldwide for quite some time. If it was a problem you'd have thought it would have been caught earlier.

  • by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:14AM (#41584047) Journal

    > 1) The fact that the control group contained 10 mice. That's right. 10 mice.

    Thanks for listing some of the problems. In addition to all of your other points, there is the distinct possibility that the results were "cherry-picked" (having a small control group would make this easier). Since the researchers aren't releasing all of the data (including how many times they may have run this experiment before obtaining this particular result), there is no way we can evaluate whether this is at all interesting.

    A lot of people don't understand that because science is, for the large part, a self-correcting system on large time scales, the peer review process is not actually designed to totally eliminate wrong research results from being published. In fact, one can make the analogy to the optimization algorithm of simulated annealing, where, while trying to optimize a function with many local minima, it is beneficial to sometimes progress in directions which make the result less optimal, so that overall the minimum attained is more likely to be the global one.

  • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:44AM (#41584391)

    I don't trust studies if someone other than the person conducting them has the right to deny permission to report them.

    Someone having the ability to selectively censor your experiments from being published has the power to bias the experiment by putting otherwise objective data through a subjective filter.

  • by Anarchy24 ( 964386 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:59AM (#41584561) Homepage
    I fail to understand how I am a kool-aid drinker, when I point out that a) they both suck, and b) cite facts to back those arguments up. Mitt Romney was "for it before he was against it", and we see that especially with the health care plan that he passed in Massachusetts. Mitt Romney is an outright liar (worse than most politicians), and Obama didn't call him out on any of it during the first debate. [] Nowhere in my post did I say or even imply that Obama isn't also an ideologue. He takes liberties with the facts and with his record as well, but has not changed his platform 180 degrees in the course of a day. It has been the stated goal of the Republican party to make him a one-term president, and they have obstructed nearly every piece of controversial legislation that Democrats have introduced. The Senate filibustered more bills than in all the years this country has existed. With the "Tea Party" at the helm, they have shifted to the far right with their social, economic, and foreign policies. Obama doesn't know how to play the game. His inexperience at politics means that he doesn't know the key players on a personal basis and never had to work with them, it means that he doesn't know how to use the bullypulpit of the president, and it means that he doesn't know how to use the 'carrot and stick' to get Congress to do what he wants. His inexperience is glaring. I'm writing in Ron Paul for president. Living here in New Jersey (ugh!), the state is guaranteed to go to Obama, so my vote doesn't make a damn bit of difference anyways. Ron Paul's mantra is to "stop telling people what to do!" I don't agree with many of his positions, but I do think that he is the best person for the job. I follow politics very closely, and although I'm just another asshole with an opinion, I at least think that it is an informed opinion.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @10:05AM (#41584631) Journal

    Because the Obama administration is as pro big money corporations as they can get away with. Anything that would limit the scope of patents would harm their corporate cronies ability to make money hand over fist. It's corruption, plain and simple.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @10:14AM (#41584735)

    Because if the Supreme Court says you can grow your own GMO seeds the entire industry disappears. Like them or not GMO crops are the future of agriculture.

    While it might hurt the predatory aspects of Monsanto's business model, a ruling that a patent holder explicitly permitting GMO seeds to be sold intermixed with other seeds as "commodity seeds" allows purchasers of the commodity seeds to use them in the way they were used here, it wouldn't destroy the food crop industry, or even the GMO food crop industry.

  • by Warhawke ( 1312723 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @10:55AM (#41585283)
    That's why trade secret protection hasn't taken off, though. Once you're outside of the contract, no protection exists for trade secrets. And once a trade secret is available to the public, it can no longer be protected. This wouldn't help Monsanto, in this case. Once they sold their seed to the farmer, and the farmer could sell the seed on the commodity market (which he needs to do to make a living), the seed is available to the public and poof -- no trade secret protection anymore. Plus, trade secrets can be reverse engineered, which would completely wreck the pharmaceutical industry; spend a few ten-thousand to reverse-engineer the product your competitor spend millions on researching? Sure! Why not?

    Granted, I think many of us are of the opinion that Monsanto doesn''t need or deserve legal help, but there is a need for patents/trademarks/copyrights, even if on a significantlymore limited scope than we see them today.

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