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The Supreme Court To Rule On Monsanto Seed Patents 372

Posted by samzenpus
from the corn-of-the-people dept.
Fluffeh writes "Can a farmer commit patent infringement just by planting soybeans he bought on the open market? This week, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on the question. The Court is pondering an appeals court decision saying that such planting can, in fact, infringe patents. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled, as it had on several previous occasions, that patent exhaustion did not cover second-generation seeds. The Supreme Court has now asked the Solicitor General, the official in charge of representing the Obama administration before the Court, to weigh in on the case."
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The Supreme Court To Rule On Monsanto Seed Patents

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  • by Nugoo (1794744) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:30AM (#39581787)
    This word gets thrown around a lot, but you Americans really are approaching fascism [wiktionary.org].

    A political regime, having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place, repression of criticism or opposition, a leader cult and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights.

    As far as I can tell, the only thing you're missing is the leader cult.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:49AM (#39581901) Journal

    If Monsanto has issues with this, then they need to genetically modify the seed (or plant that it gives birth to) so that it will only produce one generation.

    Monsanto bought a company that was developing "terminator seeds" and the backlash was so widespread and fierce that they've barely talked about it since.
    Partly because a UN Convention on Biological Diversity created a defacto global moratorium on use of the seeds.
    Canada's Government tried to challenge the moratorium, but the backlash from the Canadian people was so widespread and fierce...
    You get the idea.

    Terminator seeds are a shitty idea.
    They're DRM for seeds. Except the DRM can infect other plants.

  • by niftydude (1745144) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:51AM (#39581911)
    This is happening in Australia right now. A farmer lost his organic certification due to cross-contamination of his crop from a neighbour that was using GM seeds, and so is suing the neighbour.

    http://www.abc.net.au/rural/telegraph/content/2012/s3470966.htm [abc.net.au]
  • by mauthbaux (652274) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:20AM (#39582009) Homepage
    As I understand it, the issue with the replanted/cleaned seeds is a matter of intentional breach of contract rather than one of patent infringement. When you purchase their seeds, you purchase a license with them that prohibits the replanting/cleaning of the seeds. So whether or not IP was infringed is essentially irrelevant to the stipulations of the contract itself.

    Monsanto discusses the topic on their FAQ concerning Food Inc. http://www.monsanto.com/food-inc/Pages/default.aspx [monsanto.com]

    There's also a practical reason behind preventing the cleaning and replanting of seed. Since these seeds contain a pesticide (Bt derivative), a necessary step to maintaining the efficacy of the pesticide is planting a refuge (non-GM section) as part of the crop. If the whole crop expressed the pesticide genes, we could expect resistance to develop very quickly, but by adding in refuge areas the selective pressure decreases. The size of the refuge varies depending on the mix of proteins being expressed, and is determined by the EPA. These non-GM refuge seeds are sometimes mixed in with the GM ones at specific ratios. By cleaning/replanting the seeds, the ratio of GM to non-GM seeds changes, and the size of the refuge is no longer controlled. This creates a situation similar to the over-prescription of antibiotics that we're all familiar with; resistant pest strains will appear much more frequently. So there are reasons other than simple greed behind these contracts.

    Disclaimer: I'm currently employed at Monsanto, but contracted through a third party. I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, and my comments should not be interpreted as such.
  • Re:Compromise? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:23AM (#39582017) Homepage Journal

    The Supreme Court recently invalidated patents on natural things. All Monsanto has done so far, is move various natural genes around, from one life-form to another. That is, there are no synthetic genes in the seeds that were patented.

    How is that different than Diamond v. Chakrabarty? Chakrabarty modified existing crude-oil eating bacteria by combining their plasmid genes and producing a new stable species capable of consuming oil "one to two orders of magnitude faster." The Supreme Court liked that patent, and has since repeatedly affirmed that decision, even though there were no synthetic genes there.

  • by smpoole7 (1467717) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @03:26AM (#39582233) Homepage

    > And the 535 other individuals that could overrule this decision will not

    Mod this one insightful. That's the best line that I've seen on this page so far.

    Folks, whether you're conservative or progressive, the bottom line is that that Congress is the real problem. Whether Dem or Repub, it's not even that they're in someone's pocket (which they are) so much as it is that they're ignorant and lazy. Just plain lazy.

    Don't agree with Supreme Court decisions? There's a mechanism in the US Constitution to address that. (1) the Senate can impeach the justices and (2) if worse comes to worst, a constitutional amendment can fix a bad supreme court decision. Neither is likely to happen because Congress would rather sip champagne and have face time on CSpan (I LOVE that ... making speeches to an empty chamber, but you don't see that because Congress won't permit the cameras to show the vacant seats!).

    Think about all of the concern about Congress almost passing Yet Still Another Bad Copyright or IP Law(tm). You can ask these Congresscritters if they understand the Internet and they'll BOAST about the fact that they don't. When it comes to seeds, most of them have never done actual, hands on work and can't even maintain a plant bed in front of their house, much less run a working farm.

    And it's our fault. We keep electing the same entrenched morons, over and over, simply because they're of our party. The PRIMARIES are where we ought to be focusing, but because the incumbent has so much money and so many other advantages, he/she can swamp the opponent with negative ads ... and he/she gets re-elected.

    Turn the TV off. Quit watching and listening to the ads. You'll probably find that you can actually talk to the candidate (especially for a house race, which is more local). But if YOU continue to elect the same worthless meatsacks every 2, 4 and 6 years (or even worse, don't even bother to vote), then you have only yourself to blame.

    Hate to be harsh this early in the morning, but all this talk about encroaching fascism and other stuff is nonsense. Oh, it could happen ... but it'll only do so because every one of us continue to live in the box and won't make the effort to think (and work) outside of it.

  • Re:Maybe not (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sique (173459) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @05:35AM (#39582561) Homepage

    Yes, they can, because they implant the patented genes with a special shuttle vector [wikipedia.org] or gene shuttle. The presence of this plasmid indicates that the gene in question wasn't mutated in the plant itself, but intentionally transported there.

  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuelNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @06:12AM (#39582675) Homepage Journal
    The thing about 'Roundup Ready' soy beans is that what makes them valuable is that they're resistant to the herbicide roundup. This means that you can spray a farm full of these beans with roundup, which will kill the weeds but leave the GM plants alive.

    Now Monsanto is suing organic farmers for 'using' plants with 'monsanto's genes' in them. The thing is that: organic farmers can't make use of the 'patented' genes because they can't use herbicides. In other words, Monsanto is suing them -- not because they're using Monsanto's patented capability, but rather just because they're (re)planting seeds that happen to be contaminated with Monsanto DNA.

    Then the farmers, not having billions of dollars of patent income an a pack of on-salary lawyers to back them up, sell their Farms to Monsanto (at a loss?) [slashdot.org] rather than pay hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars to defend themselves.

  • by MisterMidi (1119653) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @07:16AM (#39582905) Homepage
    From the checklist I linked to:

    Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

    The US are top spenders on military [wikipedia.org](#1 (43%) world share, #2 by GDP)

    As for "controlled mass media," well, you're posting on Slashdot, aren't you? And isn't the article two back titled "Millions of Subscribers Leaving Cable TV for Streaming Services"?

    Again from the checklist:

    Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

    Why do you think they're pushing PIPA and SOPA?

  • by MisterMidi (1119653) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @09:41AM (#39584005) Homepage

    Right. When all else fails, call them a World War II name.

    When what fails? My attempts at world domination? If you read my post, I never said the US are fascist. I did point out that they meet every single criterion of fascism. I didn't invent the term fascism or those criteria.

    It seems that historical reality is beyond the capacity of your imagination.

    Of course it is. Confusing reality and imagination is a classic sign of schizophrenia.

    Now, instead of getting angry with me for pointing out that the US meet all criteria, why don't you read the checklist and check them yourself? I'm not the one to blame, the US government is. In short, "don't shoot the messenger".

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:18AM (#39584495)
    If you are interested in fascism you should learn some history instead of linking to the first bullshit you find on Google.

    Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

    The Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, so fascist states could hardly recognize them.

    Rampant Sexism

    Actually, Mussolini was the first to give voting rights to Italian women.

    Religion and Government are Intertwined

    Hitler was often criticised for his german paganism by Christians, and in fact had plans of dealing Christianity once the war was over. And Mussolini gave Vatican to the Catholics so they could have their own state and don't interfere with his one.

    Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

    Corruption is one thing that tends to be lower in any dictatorship, including fascism.

    Fraudulent Elections

    Hitler won in fair elections, and Mussolini committed a coup. After that they banned all opposing parties, so they didn't need to cheat on elections. Elections simply didn't have any importance.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:25AM (#39584635)

    You're misunderstanding what the Supreme court does; the only thing that can "fix" a "bad Supreme Court decision" is another Supreme court decision. A new Constitutional Amendment will change the boundaries of the government, but will not change what court rulings mean; they will still stand as precedent on any related cases that the Amendment did not address.

    That's only true when the Supreme Court ruling was made on Constitutional grounds. If the Court rules that something is unconstitutional, then the only way to change that is to put different Justices on the Court or to amend the Constitution. However, many (if not most) Supreme Court cases are actually about statutory interpretation – that is, deciding exactly what Congress meant when passing a law and what it is intended to cover. That is the case here; the Court is being asked to determine whether existing federal patent laws apply to Monsanto's seeds in this instance or not. If Congress disagrees with the Court's interpretation, then Congress is free to pass a bill clarifying (or modifying) patent law to overrule the Court.

    An example of Congress overruling the Court was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act [wikipedia.org] passed early on in the Obama Administration. (In fact, it was the first bill that Obama signed, if I'm not mistaken.) The Supreme Court had previously ruled that the statute of limitations for gender discrimination (women being paid less than men for the same job) started running when the discrimination began, even if it was ongoing, rather than starting over with each unfairly diminished paycheck. This was widely considered unfair because in some cases the workers did not even know about the discrimination until after the statute of limitations had passed. Congress passed a new law adjusting the statute of limitations, and the Supreme Court case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. [wikipedia.org] was thus overruled.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:18AM (#39585481) Homepage Journal

    Right. When all else fails, call them a World War II name.

    "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it."

    In your case, you fail by believing "fascism" is a World War II name.
    Modern use of the Italian word started with Benito Mussolini's PNC, "Partito Nazionale Fascista" in 1919, and the word was commonly in use in English long before WWII started.

    Prior usage goes back to the ancient Rome, and the notion to use "fascist" for paramilitary politicians had a long tradition in e.g. Sicilia. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasces [wikipedia.org]

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