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May 21, 2013

Going To Seed

In Bowman v. Monsanto, the Supreme Court creates a glaring exception to patent law as a boon to corporate power. Such plutocratic largesse is the norm, as is ignoring facts to rule by bias, while crafting law from the bench without respect to statute. The abject corruption of the courts in this country continues.

Bowman v. Monsanto (SCOTUS 11-796) Justice Kagan (author) of a unanimous opinion

The doctrine of patent exhaustion limits a patentee's right to control what others can do with an article embodying or containing an invention. Under the doctrine, "the initial authorized sale of a patented item terminates all patent rights to that item." Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., 553 U. S. 617, 625 (2008). And by "exhaust[ing] the [patentee's] monopoly" in that item, the sale confers on the purchaser, or any subsequent owner, "the right to use [or] sell" the thing as he sees fit. United States v. Univis Lens Co., 316 U. S. 241, 249-250 (1942). We have explained the basis for the doctrine as follows:"[T]he purpose of the patent law is fulfilled with respect to any particular article when the patentee has received his reward . . . by the sale of the article"; once that "purpose is realized the patent law affords no basis for restraining the use and enjoyment of the thing sold." Id., at 251.
Petitioner Bowman purchased Roundup Ready soybean seed for his first crop of each growing season from a company associated with Monsanto and followed the terms of the licensing agreement. But to reduce costs for his riskier late-season planting, Bowman purchased soybeans intended for consumption from a grain elevator; planted them; treated the plants with glyphosate, killing all plants without the Roundup Ready trait; harvested the resulting soybeans that contained that trait; and saved some of these harvested seeds to use in his late-season planting the next season. After discovering this practice, Monsanto sued Bowman for patent infringement. Bowman raised the defense of patent exhaustion, which gives the purchaser of a patented article, or any subsequent owner, the right to use or resell that article. The District Court rejected Bowman's defense and the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Applying legal logic with any rigor whatsoever, the patent was exhausted when Bowman sold the seeds. Bowman's purchase of seeds from a grain elevator furthers that conclusion. If Bowman was guilty of patent infringement for using patented seeds, the grain elevator infringed by selling the seeds. Instead, exhausting logic in the process, according to the Supreme Court in Bowman v. Monsanto, seed patents are exhausted until their use impinges on a corporate patent-holder's potential profit.

Posted by Patent Hawk at May 21, 2013 4:31 PM | Exhaustion