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October 12, 2007

Hucksters

In a woe-is-us shuck-and-jive press release, the same folks that'd have you think ethanol from corn is a good idea want the Patent Reform Act of 2007 to pass as a means of eviscerating patent enforcement. "American Corn Growers Association (ACGA)... does not oppose new technology such as GMOs, but we must... level the playing field for small farmers." Leveling the playing field means getting the same subsidy for infringing intellectual property that corn farmers receive for growing their crops in the first place; looking to Uncle Sam for another hand-out. That's why it's called "free enterprise."

From today's ACGA press release:

Keith Bolin, President of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) has commended the actions of Senators Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee for recently completing action on the Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1145).

"Family farmers have been struggling for years against lawsuits that claim they have willfully infringed on the patents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," added Bolin. "These allegations of infringement are often unwarranted since farmers in many cases are sued after their fields are contaminated by pollen that naturally drifts over from a neighboring field. It has been proven that pollen (including GMOs) can drift more than five miles, which is impossible for an individual farmer to block or control in any way. Accordingly, these farmers should not be accused of 'willfully' infringing on the patent of seeds that naturally cross-pollinated into their fields."

Bolin continued by stating, "Farmers should not be forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to defend themselves against such allegations. To do so, often to defend themselves against unwarranted accusations, adds undue and often insurmountable financial stress on their modest family budgets. Currently the corporate plaintiffs in these cases often select courts in distant locations that favor them, which requires family farmers to travel to courts that are not only far away but also biased against them. The situation that farmers must endure today is clearly not the intent of the patent system and it should be corrected... This legislation will help protect farmers by raising the standards for assessing ‘willfulness’ and revising venue rules to prevent forum shopping.”

"Forum shopping" refers to patent holders preferring districts that are experienced in handling patent cases, not podunk district courts where the judge is readily frustrated with the complexities of patent law and naturally sympathetic to the locals.

On the economics of ethanol, from the New York Times, September 19, 2007 (many such sources exist):

A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an economic forum of rich nations, called on the United States and other industrialized nations to eliminate subsidies for the production of ethanol which, the report said, is driving up food costs, threatening natural habitats and imposing other environmental costs. “The overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel,” it said.

The economics of corn ethanol have never made much sense. Rather than importing cheap Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane, the United States slaps a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on ethanol from Brazil. Then the government provides a tax break of 51 cents a gallon to American ethanol producers — on top of the generous subsidies that corn growers already receive under the farm program.

Posted by Patent Hawk at October 12, 2007 3:32 PM | The Patent System

Comments

Did you know the American Corn Growers Association (Illinois) is in the Coalition for Patent Fairness with the likes of Microsoft, Research in Motion, and Sun Microsystems? Adversity (and a dislike for patents) makes strange bedfellows.

You can find out more about the coalition at:

http://www.patentfairness.org/about_the_coalition/our_members.cfm

and in questions 30-34 of the quiz linked at:

http://www.nipra.org/action.html

Posted by: NIPRA anonymous at October 12, 2007 5:29 PM

P.S. On October 5, 2007, the Coalition's map had Research in Motion listed for:

"Mississauga, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario
Waterloo, Ontario"

Now it's vanished (though they are still listed in Irving, TX).

Posted by: NIPRA anonymous at October 12, 2007 5:36 PM

Never underestimate the Children of the Corn! Freaky deaks!

Posted by: Mr T at October 12, 2007 6:38 PM