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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 Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:03AM (#39581647) Homepage Journal

    Monsanto is about to realize a dream: The absolute ownership of the food supply.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:07AM (#39581659)

      Or find out that is has been building castles in the sky...

      Keep in mind, that for Monsato to have such utter control means that the government is giving that control away. I don't think that the US government wants to give up that sort of power.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:12AM (#39581687)

        You forget the USA government = corporations government. After all they can't bite the hand that feeds them: Occasionally groan for appearances to get some votes. Same for the supreme corp^h^h^h court.

        • by lexsird (1208192) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @04:40AM (#39582429)

          Monsanto is the acme of the corporate problem in this equation. We really have been fools about all of this. We've allowed corporations into our food production to the point that it threatens the "mom and pop" farmers that make this country great. Why don't we want corporations involved? Aside from the usual great arguments, there is one we must consider. Corporations can be bought and controlled by interests that run contrary to the good of us all.

          If we keep the "power" in the hands of small farmer, we make it nigh impossible for any entity to control it. This isn't just Leftist hippie drivel, it preserves our food supply from falling into a "lack of genetic diversity" to keep it safe. If you end up with just ONE strain of something, you have put the system at risk.

          The individual independent farmers of America are one of our greatest assets. Through them, we have a stable food system that can feed the world in an affordable way.

          But don't expect our government to do what is wise by it's own nation or people. We have elected a ship of fools it would seem. But this is only because we have a population that revels in it's own ignorance. These same people then pass this value on in their electorate. News for Nerds you say? Look at this, name calling from the neolithic cavemen who are too lazy to educate themselves. Nerds indeed!

          I believe we are in this situation due to our own stupidity. Corruption is the acme of stupidity and it's tenacity. Corrupted we are indeed. We have lost the ability to think as a nation, and it's now just a matter of the factions splitting up the spoils of the ruins. It's easy to predict how this SCOTUS will rule. I believe they have neither the intelligence, the wisdom, or the integrity to rule for the nation on this. I believe they are corrupted and will side with the hand that feeds them.

          Judge a tree by it's fruits. What insane rulings have we seen out of this court so far? "Corporations are people too" hallmarked the rise of Corporation-ism / Fascism in this country. There is a political/power jigsaw puzzle coming together that has been decades in the shuffling around into place. It takes objectivity of a highly removed magnitude and a scope of vision that pans the global history to see it.

          To put it in gaming terms, the perspective of the pawn will not see it. You have to look at it from the perspective of the player. Looking at this as just another piece on the board, how fares the game for us?

          • by shentino (1139071) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @05:47AM (#39582605)

            Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.

          • by MisterMidi (1119653) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @06:24AM (#39582717) Homepage

            I agreed to everything you said until you mentioned fascism. I thought, things are bad in the US, but surely they can't be that bad, the US are nothing like Nazi Germany, right? So I googled for a fascism checklist and found this: The 14 defining characteristics of fascism [rense.com]:

            • Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - check
            • Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - check
            • Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - check
            • Supremacy of the Military - check
            • Rampant Sexism - check
            • Controlled Mass Media - check
            • Obsession with National Security - check
            • Religion and Government are Intertwined - check
            • Corporate Power is Protected - check
            • Labor Power is Suppressed - check
            • Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - check
            • Obsession with Crime and Punishment - check
            • Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - check
            • Fraudulent Elections - check

            This is scary.

            • by ChipMonk (711367) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @06:45AM (#39582801) Journal
              I would challenge "supremacy of the military" on the grounds that our Commander in Chief is, and always has been, a civilian. A veteran, perhaps, but never an active-duty soldier. And the second-in-command since 1949, the Secretary of Defense, is also a civilian.

              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"?
              • 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 DrYak (748999) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @07:22AM (#39582939) Homepage

                I would challenge "supremacy of the military" on the grounds that our Commander in Chief is, and always has been, a civilian. A veteran, perhaps, but never an active-duty soldier. And the second-in-command since 1949, the Secretary of Defense, is also a civilian

                The actual criteria, as explained on the web page, isn't how high active military are in the political chain, but rather how much a country spends on military and how often it uses its army as a solution to the problems.

                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.

                And as seen from outside (from the other side of the atlantic pond), the USA seem to fund disproportionately a lot their armed forces, and seem to think that fighting wars (Irak, Afghanistan) is the best solution. Active soldiers are seen as doing something patriotic. These wars have cost unbelievible amounts of money, yet the country still hesitate to spend money on public health (the whole debate about medicare/medicaid).

            • by TheCarp (96830) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @07:58AM (#39583117) Homepage

              well you know this system was designed, from the start, to maintain power in relatively small (and, until recently, shrinking) circles. Its been pointed out that to maintain representation levels with population growth, we would need 100k members in the House.

              By the model the senate wouldn't need to expand.... but all the state legislatures would.... in any case, its clear to see that this doesn't scale. Thats why it hasn't happend, and wont.

              The electoral system basically makes a two party system the only stable configuration... to its credit, it does effectively seem to prevent a one party system from being too stable. That is, unless the second party was really weak. Maybe a group that seldom or never comes up with any good ideas and basically represents a few moneied interests like...say... the security services, paired up with some large but intellectually insignificant group that nobody is ever actually going to accept the policies of... like say.... whacko christians who support Isreal because...and I shit you not.... the Bible says the jews should have that land. (Ever wonder why the republicans always beat the drums on what a good friend Isreal is, when US Jews are not only so few in number, but almost uniformly vote democrat?)

              The bigger problem is, its all little cults of personality. Making it about electing individuals makes campaigns about the lives of individuals. Honestly, I think it lends creedance to investigations of affairs. I mean, if the election is about putting a person in a seat.... what would you expect it to evolve to?

            • by Frangible (881728) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @08:10AM (#39583187)
              Right. When all else fails, call them a World War II name. If the US was truly fascist, you and your family would be summarily executed for making that post. Do you know at all what that means?

              Kids these days just have zero conception of how little human life was worth in the 1940s, or what really went on. It seems that historical reality is beyond the capacity of your imagination.

              On all sides. It was not merely Germany, Italy and Japan targeting civilians and taking rights away from people on the homefront. Every country did it in the name of survival. Anything you want to whine about the Nazis or Fascists doing, we already did. Restrict rights of domestic citizens and put them into concentration camps, or conscript them into war? Check. Bomb the hell out of German civilians with our British bros all night long? Check. Push a prototype nuclear weapon of mass destruction out of the back of an airplane over a city filled with civilians ... twice? Check. Firebomb and kill even more civilians with incendiary weapons before we got our dubya emm dees? Check. Shoot our own soldiers in the back if they didn't push forward (zee Russians)? Check. Because that's what survival in a real war takes.

              Calling someone a fascist is inane and meaningless, and is an insult to history.
              • 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 smpoole7 (1467717)

                  > Confusing reality and imagination is a classic sign of schizophrenia.

                  Two out of the three voices in my head disagree with that assertion. Take it back!

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by arth1 (260657)

                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]

            • What is most scary is that no one seems to have noticed this going on. Even worse are the patriotic right wing who have decided that anyone complaining about the above list is a traitor who is at war with the US. Hopefully you will muddle through without actually having a holocaust or civil war but the signs are growing worse not better.

              • by ultranova (717540)

                Even worse are the patriotic right wing who have decided that anyone complaining about the above list is a traitor who is at war with the US.

                Ah yes, the existence of the proto-SS is also a good indicator.

            • by Ksevio (865461) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @10:16AM (#39584463) Homepage

              Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - check - sometimes, but you don't go to jail if you're not patriotic

              Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - X - apart from some isolated incidents, the US has high regard for human rights.

              Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - X - Although "terrorists" may have unified some people, it's not like the cold war with the with us or a commie mentality.

              Supremacy of the Military - check - though the military is not used for civil matters which I would put as a key point of a fascist regime

              Rampant Sexism - X - I think all societies have sexism, but it's nothing like Saudi Arabia in the US

              Controlled Mass Media - X - That we're talking or that there was coverage of any government scandal (wikileaks data anyone?) shows that the government is not in control

              Obsession with National Security - check

              Religion and Government are Intertwined - X - This isn't the taliban, although many leaders do share a faith, there are plenty of other faiths, and the religious text does not direct policy (the justice system has blocked it when it attempts to).

              Corporate Power is Protected - check/X - corporations are very powerful, but they do have limits and regulations (though they could be stronger in many cases).

              Labor Power is Suppressed - X - see labor unions across the country

              Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - X - any disdain for intellectuals or arts is not being pushed by the government

              Obsession with Crime and Punishment - X - we're not having China like police crackdowns with people sent to labor camps

              Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - X - Corruption is nothing compared to places like India or Afghanistan, not even comparable.

              Fraudulent Elections - X - apart from a few isolated incidents, elections are clean. See Russia for what a fraudulent election is.

              In general, I think you could apply any list to pretty much any country if you just look for one example of it happening. People that seem to think the US is a fascist regime really need to look at actual Fascist countries and get a grip on reality.

            • 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.

          • Corporations can be bought and controlled by interests that run contrary to the good of us all.

            "uhm, socialism!" or "uhm, communism!"

            that's what the far right will always say when you mention 'good of us all'. it triggers pre-programmed responses. non-thinking responses.

            if we can ever clean up this 'for the people == communism' stuff we can make huge strides in progress. but as long as the extreme right continues to reject anything that is for our collective good, we are screwed.

            the extreme 'right' is t

            • by lexsird (1208192)

              Let me strike at this while it's still fresh in my mind. The problem I see with big corporations having such control over these things is the multinational aspect of it. By that I mean, these corporations aren't just "super citizens" here in the US, they are elsewhere as well. Our national interests can be bought up out from under us once they have fallen under corporate control.

              Multinational interests don't give one damn about the ecology of our economy. Nor do they care how many of us starve to death in t

          • by rycamor (194164) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @11:16AM (#39585455)

            You're right... this isn't just leftist hippie drivel. It's a fight for freedom vs. fascism disguised as free industry. I am a 46-year-old, extremely free-market libertarian guy who has begun to experiment with small-scale farming, and the things I come across are downright scary.

            Recently a friend who is a gardening/farming geek unparalleled, working on his Master Gardener certification, lost the greater part of his organic garden due to aminopyralid damage in the soil. His mistake was to bring several barrels of cow manure from a conventional cattle farm to mix with his soil. It turns out that Dow Chemical has produced an additive to livestock feed that renders the manure unsuitable for soil for up to 2 years. (This affects horse manure also, BTW). His expensive collection of blackberries, blueberries, fruit trees, and tomatoes: gone overnight. If a guy who reads up on all the science and technology of farming the way a Linux contributor reads Unix programming books can't prevent such disaster, what hope is there for the typical local farmer? One simple mistake of involving your food supply *in any way* with the world of corporate farming can wipe you out. And there are so many ways.

            And if you think this problem is bad in the USA, it is even worse in India [mercola.com]. Literally a quarter million small-scale farmers have committed suicide over the last couple decades because of international food corporations and genetically modified plants.

            Between the heads of international food corporations and the international banking elite, I'm not sure which group should become the more hated, but they are both doing their level best to turn the rest of us into serfs. I don't see how it can end well. I am starting to believe there will be a major upheaval in the world in my children's generation.

            • by Noren (605012)
              I know of at least one case where it's not even an additive to livestock feed - it's a pesticide used on hay fields. It will kill many kinds of complicated plants, as it basically acts as a plant hormone to make cell walls stack incorrectly... but hay and grasses aren't affected, and it's believed safe for animals as we don't have any cell walls at all. It passes right on through a cow or horse without harming the animal.

              The livestock producer may not have added anything to his feed. All he needed to
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Your statement is overly optimistic. In fact we are already at fascism including abusive police powers,suppression of free speech, detention without due process and execution of citizens without trial. Our militaristic aggression may help those outside the US to recognize the situation. The veneer of very recent democratic principals in action is now being removed as a nuisance. There is no responsibility to provide for the common good though that is invoked to serve corporate interest as is the case with t

      • 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 Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:47AM (#39581889)

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

          Given their last bunch of leaders... Obama, too polar, you either love him or hate him, sort of the Apple of the political world. Bush W, even Americans knew he had more teeth than IQ. Clinton, bit too liberal to make for a leader cult, also lost his chance by getting caught dipping his cigar into the local ashtray - big no-no for the bible belt. Bush Senior, had a rockin chance with close to 90% approval ratings, blew it by making new taxes and being caught up in the econimic slump. Regan, elected too early before Americans were really ready for a leader cult - was elected in a time when being "American" still meant working hard, taking it on the chin and wearing bowboy hats.

          Maybe the next election, one comes along, though Obama will still be much too polarizing of the population and from what I have seen, none of the other candidates really stand a chance - too old, too dumb, too radical or too dumb - do you see what I did there?

          • by Kirth (183)

            Obama, too polar, you either love him or hate him, sort of the Apple of the political world.

            Something I really don't understand is that those people who loved George W. Bush now totally hate this Obama Bush.

        • by intok (2605693) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:20AM (#39582003)
          Yes, that is true, but we can't use that term as due to the US education system being so bad the general public doesn't associate it with Mussolini but instead think that you mean Hitler and the Nazis and the holocaust. Thus they gloss over and ignore you as a nutcase.
        • insulting (Score:5, Funny)

          by harvey the nerd (582806) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @03:27AM (#39582235)
          ....but you Americans really are approaching fascism

          That is insulting. Everyone knows that we achieved fascism under Pres. Bush. We're just not sure which one.
        • by berashith (222128)

          I actually see quite a few people wearing shirts and hats with Obama written on them in giant letters, and his portrait on them. It frightens me a bit. I think of how North Korea puts a picture of dear leader in every house ( or the myth of that at least) . I also think how people would have reacted if these shirts were pro Bush. There is definitely a cult leader feel with some of his supporters, and it scares the hell out of me.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @08:51AM (#39583473) Homepage Journal

        You really have no idea what is going on in this country, do you? Monsanto gave thousands of American GIs cancer through negligence (contaminated Agent Orange) with absolutely zero repercussions. You don't get to do that kind of shit without being part of the power structure. "The Government", or the people actually running it, very much include Monsanto. Now the government is helping them take over land from farmers.

        Take a look at White House appointments and see how many come from Monsanto. It's really stepped up in the last decade. They're fucking IN there. This is the US government TAKING that kind of power.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:09AM (#39581665)

      Monsanto is the devil, and farmers sold their souls to it for temporary edge over competition. Now, they get no more money than in the past. I would even argue, they get less money as more food floods the market.

      The devil is laughing his ass off.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by oxdas (2447598)

      I hate to side with Monsanto here, but...

      If I built a machine that could replicate anything, then the first person that bought it could just use it to replicate the machine itself and my patent would be worthless. Instead, they could replicate anything but my machine (violating others patents no doubt) without violating my patent. This is not the same case as the farmer that finds stray Monsanto crops in his field and then has to pay Monsanto (which I think is ridiculous and evil).

      • by TheInternetGuy (2006682) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:22AM (#39581747)

        Since beginning of time, if I bought( or got a hold of) a seed, planted and nursed it it would produce more seeds which can in their turn be planted and nursed. This is the definition of a seed.

        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.

        If Monsanto wants to challenge the whole reason we became agricultural societies instead of hunter gatherers then I guess that is just in their business DNA.

          But if you the people allow them to get away with it, then you the people are morons.

        • by oxdas (2447598) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:35AM (#39581805)

          I am not entirely certain if we are arguing against or past each other, but I will respond. This case is about if Monsanto seeds are eligible for patent exhaustion due to self-replication, not if they should be able to get away with patenting these things in the first place, nor if they can force anyone who accidentally grows them to pay royalties. The court is in a tricky situation concerning self-replicating patentable objects. I can see why they ruled the way they did (expressed in my example above). Given the recent ruling in Prometheus, I could see the Supreme court invalidating Monsanto's patents and would have no problem with that. That is not what this case is about though.

        • by ffoiii (226358) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:35AM (#39581811) Homepage
          The problem is not that "the people" allow them to get away with it, but that nine particularly selected individuals will make this decision based on a long history of weighing some rights over other rights, with a recent disposition (over the last hundred years or so), of devaluing individual rights over the rights of corporations. And the 535 other individuals that could overrule this decision will not and do not because their jobs depend on the people who benefit from these decisions.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "The people" can eliminate a law at any time by refusing to convict anyone. Who cares what the Supreme Court say if you can't get a conviction in a real court?

          • 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.

            • by The Rizz (1319) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @05:46AM (#39582601)

              if worse comes to worst, a constitutional amendment can fix a bad supreme court decision.

              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.

              What I think you're trying to say is that an Amendment can make a SCOTUS decision moot. In that case, you're going for overkill, though - a simple change in law is all that is needed, not an Amendment.

              • 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 kenshin33 (1694322) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:38AM (#39581841)

          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.

          ever heard of Terminator seeds [wikipedia.org]?

          • by Sique (173459) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:41AM (#39582099) Homepage

            Terminator seeds only work if they are not crossbreeding. But in most cases, it is about non-Monsanto seeds crossbreeding with Monsanto ones. And if the courts determine, that Monsanto had a patent on those plants too, then it's Monsanto's responsibility to keep the seeds from crossbreeding.
            No farmer not in a business relationship with Monsanto should be forced to throw some of their products away just because they are contaminated with Monsanto's patented DNA. It wasn't the farmer who planted the Monsanto seeds in the first place. So it's Monsanto negligently damaging the farmer's harvest.

            There is a solution though. If Monsanto insists on claiming patent infrigment on those plants and their seeds which are the result of crossbreeding due to pollution of neighbouring non-Monsanto fields, and if this claim is uphold, they should have the responsibility to buy all plants and seeds which are contaminated with their patented DNA at the market prices for the incontaminated one until they manage it to create such seeds that the resulting plants don't pollute non-Monsanto ones.

        • 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.

          • Except the DRM can infect other plants.

            This is the problem. If Monsanto would have developed sterile or seedless plants then I don't think anyone would have been complaining. It was the fact that they developed fertile plants which then sterilize themselves (and any other non-Monsanto plants nearby) through the process of fertilization, that made it a horrible, horrible idea.

      • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:52AM (#39581915) Homepage

        Ok -- analogy critique

        You're suggesting Monsanto built a self-replicating machine, which is totally false. If it was true, Monsanto could take a few train cars of pure carbon, some cylinders of pure hydrogen and oxygen, and a few other trace elements -- and produce seeds. When Monsanto can use air and charcoal to make seeds, maybe then we should talk about patents.

        At present however, it is indisputable that Monsanto did NOT build a self-replicating machine. Monsanto took a pre-existing semi-self-replicating machine (semi in the sense that it replicates with the help of other like machines, mixing their designs in the process), a machine that it absolutely can NOT produce from the ground up -- a machine that everyone already had for free or next to free. It made a tweak to that machine, and then released it into the wild with all the others. When the originals and the tweaked version intermingle as would naturally occur, Monsanto claims ownership over the whole shebang.

        Which is bullshit. Maybe its fair for Monsanto to have its own patent covered version of the seed (emphasize "maybe" here), but the fact that its modifications find their way into other plants is not a basis for Monsanto gaining ownership of the other plants, its a basis for the people who want the originals to sue for nuisance. But in our bassackwards world, Monsanto's nuisance liability becomes its cash cow.

        • by oxdas (2447598)

          First off, it is the Court that suggested the Monsanto built a self-replicating machine. My analogy was to bring out the basic principle they were arguing. Again, this case is not about whether or not Monsanto's seeds can be patented. It is not about whether or not Monsanto can force people to pay them royalties.

          Just to reiterate for all the slashdotters who did nothing more than read the headline, It is not about whether Monsanto can patent seeds.

          It is about whether or not a seed is self-replicating and

          • by anagama (611277)

            My point was that Monsanto did not build the machine at all. It simply doesn't have the technology. So for anyone to suggest that it does sort of misses the point.

            To put this in slashdot-bad-car-analogy terms, its like Monsanto went into its garage, found a truck it had parked there but did not invent, build, or create, sprayed it with mud, then drove around town letting the mud splatter on other pre-existing cars it neither built, created, nor owned, and then goes around claiming an ownership right in an

        • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:27AM (#39582029)

          I'm sure there's some governing body for Native Americans - they should patent corn and sue Monsanto for all they're worth. It took them thousands of years to "invent" corn and Monsanto replicates and resells this invention without paying any compensation to the inventors.

          In all seriousness, corn is probably the most impressively modified plant next to bananas. In its original form it was pretty much just a grain (corn, in fact, is a generic term for grain that's been part of the English language before any English speaker laid eyes on maize).

          If any invention is going on here, it's the process by which the seeds are made. A process that's not too disimilar from the way the Native Americans made corn or how Mendal manipulated peas and flowers and whatnot. But what Monsanto is doing is closer to what Mendel did than the Natives. At least with maize its almost wholly different from the original plant. It's like the difference between a great dane and a chihuahua. I live in a rural area and I'm surrounded by things grown from Monsanto seeds. I recognize them as plants that have existed far before Monsanto. They would have to at least start producing something that struck me as a 'new' plant for me to even consider the possibility that it could be patentable, but then I'd still be wary since, as you said, no one builds seeds from scratch.

          • by oxdas (2447598)

            Totally agree with you. I hope the Supreme Court has a chance to hear a case on that (this one doesn't address your arguments). If you extend the Prometheus ruling, which basically said that if you take something natural and do nothing more than act upon using it widely known techniques, then there is nothing to patent (in their case it was the process that was being patented, but I think the logic could translate). For Monsanto, they took something of nature and modified it in an obvious way. At most,

    • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya.gmail@com> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:14AM (#39581701)

      Monsanto is about to realize a dream: The absolute ownership of the food supply.

      The article makes for a scary reading!
      "However, farmers remain free to sell the soybeans they grow in the commodity market,".
      The implication here is that Monsanto may also eventually control farmer's ability to sell soybeans after they buy, plant and grow them?

    • Even if upheld, they are still beholden to the government. The reason is that patents are something the government is given the power to issue, and thus also something they have the power to take away. There are various reasons they can do so, and they can alter the law to give themselves other reasons they can do so. There is no question they have power over patents, the Constitution gives it to them explicitly.

      You'd better believe that trying to cut off food would be something they'd get slapped down for,

  • Now, the Supreme Court has invited the Solicitor General to file briefs expressing the views of the United States in the case.

    Supreme court already panders to the government quite a bit (e.g., commerce clause). Now they are going to reach out and ask what ruling the government wants?

    • by aonic (878715) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:20AM (#39581737) Homepage

      There are a lot of fantastical views about the role of the Supreme Court and ones personal interpretation of the Constitution, but as it stands, the SCOTUS is a purely reactive branch. It's not their job to make policy, nor should it be.

      Even with the recent Affordable Care Act oral arguments, you heard Supreme Court justices voicing their reluctance to wade through the bill to figure out where to sever the individual mandate. The court was not consulted on the constitutionality of the PATRIOT act or the most recent NDAA before they were passed. Someone has to actively sue (and have standing to sue, under federal law,) to even bring it to their attention. This might not be ideal, since it would be very difficult sue the federal government over indefinite detention while having the standing to do so, but it's how our government works.

      On this issue, it makes sense. The SCOTUS is merely asking the other branches of government "hey, there's a problem with your law. How would you solve it?" before writing a precedent-setting decision.

      • by dslbrian (318993)

        The courts have painted themselves into this ridiculous corner based on idiotic interpretations of the Constitution. In ascribing to the letter of the law they have completely disregarded the spirit of the law, and in so doing allowed this stupid situation to exist. The fact that patents are granted on a ~20-year duration regardless of field allows companies like Monsanto to lock down the food supply in perpetuity. By contaminating the soybean supply every few years with a new slight derivative, and clai

        • by fnj (64210) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:48AM (#39582139)

          You're entirely right, except for one thing. Of COURSE the Supreme Court should ask for a VARIETY of input. That's what a court is FOR. To weigh competing legal cases and theories. Sheesh. Whether they BUY the establishment's arguments or not is an entirely different matter, but they should HEAR them.

  • ...should sue for child support.
  • by tick-tock-atona (1145909) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:17AM (#39581707)

    It's possible that this could be the concrete example of the brokenness of the patent system required to instigate reform. In this case, outlawing this type of genetic patent.

    From TFA:

    Monsanto has a point. Taking Bowman's argument to its logical conclusion would imply that anyone could buy a single batch of commodity (but still Roundup Ready) soybeans and use it to sell an unlimited number of copies. This would effectively eviscerate Monsanto's patent protection.

    Yet Monsanto's position—that planting Monsanto-derived soybeans always requires Monsanto's permission—could also have troubling consequences. In a world where 94 percent of soybeans in circulation are descended from Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds, it might be hard for farmers who didn't want Monsanto's seeds even to buy seeds that were not patent encumbered. Monsanto's position would effectively place the burden on farmers to test seeds they hope to plant in order to ensure they are not covered by any patents.

    If the product works as advertised then natural selection will ensure it comes to dominate the population.. how can you litigate against evolution? Surely the only winning move here is not to play?

    • by gizmonic (302697) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:23AM (#39581755) Homepage

      In a world where 94 percent of soybeans in circulation are descended from Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds, it might be hard for farmers who didn't want Monsanto's seeds even to buy seeds that were not patent encumbered.

      Doesn't that render it close enough to a monopoly for the government to be able to step in and regulate it?

      Natural evolution, bigger is usually better, but the bigger the spider, the more likely you are to see and squish it. Sometimes you get too big and it's all over for you.

      And if 94% doesn't cut it, let's just pollute that last 6% for them.

    • by Truekaiser (724672) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:24AM (#39581759)

      except that evolution has been making more plants resistant to round-up then Monsanto has made. do they own them even though those same genes were made by nature?
      what about the insects and other pests that become resistant? do they own them as well because so far they have ruled that the patent follows the gene no mater what.
      if a human developed resistance to roundup would they own the human too?

    • by oxdas (2447598)

      How about just invalidating their patent. The Supremes just ruled in Prometheus that you can't take a naturally occurring object, use a widely known technique on it, and patent it, since there is no creative step. I don't know all the details of the Monsanto seeds, but if all they are doing is taking a soybean and splicing the genes with roundup using widely available techniques, then the argument could be made the there are no grounds for a patent in the first place.

      • by andydread (758754) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @04:13AM (#39582377)
        What Monsanto does is they take naturally occurring genes from an bacterium that allows plants to be resistant to Round-Up and blast them randomly into the plant genome with a gene gun. Hardly novel, Hardly non-obvious. When you purchase Monsanto seed you have to sign a license agreement. That License agreement among other things says that you must pay Monsanto a license fee per hectare of land that you plant the purchased seed, You must allow Monsanto's police force on your land in every storage building on your land for up to 3 years after you quit using their seed. If you sell seed cleaners that allow farmers to replant seeds or or offer a seed cleaning service then Monsanto will sue you out of business claiming you encourage farmers to violate their patents. Their lying and hiding results that they found regarding the effects of their specific product on living systems in their labs. Monsanto's business practices has driven me to purchase more and more organic and NON-GMO products. I also quit using Round-Up on my property. I don't want to give them my money if I can help it.
  • Tough Call (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BoRegardless (721219) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:18AM (#39581725)

    If you funded the invention of a new crop version and wanted to recoup your hundreds of millions of development costs, you would not want the court to eliminate patent rights for 2nd generation crops.

    If on the other hand, you are a farmer, and nearly all beans in your area are patented and then you buying commodity beans from a "feed and seed" place & it means you get mostly patented beans and you plant them, you would not expect to pay a royalty on a "commodity" that you didn't want or order.

    This is a tough one. I see the issues on one side and the other.

    • Re:Tough Call (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tick-tock-atona (1145909) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:36AM (#39581817)

      If you funded the invention of a new crop version and wanted to recoup your hundreds of millions of development costs, you would not want the court to eliminate patent rights for 2nd generation crops.

      This attitude is a problem. Why should anyone be forced to prop up a poorly thought out business model? Farmers have been manipulating genes for thousands of years.. is there a patent on corn [wikipedia.org] or bananas [corpwatch.org] or any number of domesticated crops? No, because the reward to the farmers was a more productive crop.

      Maybe monsanto needs to change the way they do business rather than try to force everyone else to do so.

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      If you funded the invention of a new crop version and wanted to recoup your hundreds of millions of development costs, you would not want the court to eliminate patent rights for 2nd generation crops.

      So what are you going to do? Arrest the bee for cross pollination? Arrest the wind for blowing your seeds into my yard? If you want to control second generation don't let it out into the wild.

  • by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:19AM (#39581735) Homepage

    I see it more that the farmer should sue Monsanto for contaminating the seeds he buys - he expects to get regualr bean seeds instead through no fault of his own, the seeds have been contaminated with genetically modified components.

    Ruling that any farmer got it (contaminated agriculture) through natural processes as "infringing" is ludicrous.

  • Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Formalin (1945560) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:23AM (#39581757)

    Not going to hope for much here, seeing as Monsanto already owns the government.

    I'm looking forward to a day when living things cannot be patented - especially things which can self-proliferate in a natural setting. I might need to go to another planet to achieve this, unfortunately.

  • by ffflala (793437) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:31AM (#39581791)
    SCOTUS has taken the unusual step of asking the administration to provide them with an interpretation. This does not necessarily mean SCOTUS will hear the case; they can still reject the petition.

    To be more precise, this move indicates that the court has a strong interest in the case. It's still possible that they'll let the circuit decisions stand, if they basically agree with everything they can get their hands on.

    That said, I really hope they hear it, and separate patents from seeds. Fuck you for this case, Monsanto.
  • Compromise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VernonNemitz (581327) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @01:40AM (#39581845) 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. I'm aware that the result is new in the sense that the combination didn't exist before, but no part of it is actually new.

    Since I'm quite aware that new combinations of other things are quite often patentable, I won't say that gene-manipulated seeds don't automatically deserve to be patented. But it might be reasonable to limit the scope of the patent. Because, historically, most patented things need to be manufactured to exist in quantity; they don't go out and automatically make copies of themselves as seeds can do.

    So, my opinion on this matter is that the patents should not be allowed to cover any "copies" of the seed-genes that Naturally "get away" from Monsanto's (and most any other industry's) normal control-of-supply. If Monsanto can lock down cross-pollination of its patented gene combinations, fine (and good luck!). If Monsanto can produce seeds that grow plants that produce nonviable seeds, fine (also, good luck!). Because either of those would be reasonable ways to keep its patented gene-combinations under control. But trying to claim ownership of the results of perfectly Natural gene-spreading processes, NO.
    • Re:Compromise? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,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.

    • That is an absolutely specious argument. All patents of things cover things that are combinations of already existing materials, the elements.

      Patents are either about new processes or new things, and these things are ALWAYS combinations of pre-existing materials.

  • the 5-4 split decision along party lines in favour of Monsanto.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @02:35AM (#39582067)

    Monsanto is so vigorous about defending its Roundup Ready seed patents because they are in a panic about what's happening in plant biology. Here's why.

    Once you reach a point that farm weeds are starting to show resistance to Roundup, the game's up for Roundup. Most crops are grown in areas where 95% of the land is under cultivation. So you have virtually all Monsanto's seed sown in large areas that are pretty uniform breeding grounds for weeds. For years, Roundup Ready was a big advantage, because there were just a few kinds of weeds that could survive Roundup spraying. But now we've reached a point where 94% of the farmland is under cultivation with Roundup Ready and it's getting sprayed every year at the weeds' peak vulnerability times with Roundup, putting massive selection pressure on the weeds.

    Once you reach a level where 1% of the weeds are resistant, and 94% of them get sprayed with something like 90% mortality, you get a next generation of weed seeds that's about 5% resistant. They year after that it's about 20% resistant. At this point farmers still see some value in Roundup. It still gives them an 80% reduction in weeds. But next year it's about 57% resistant. Now the farmer is frustrated. He sprays and sprays again and curses Monsanto. His crops are OK, but he's not doing as well as the guy down the road who doesn't spray at all but uses other methods for weed reduction.

    But Roundup has been his method for 15 years and he's reluctant to try something new.

    The next year, 87% of the weeds are resistant to Roundup. He sprays and only a handful of weeds die. He knows he sprayed at the right time. His neighbors are all bemoaning the same problem. "It ain't the Roundup. It's the weeds," one buddy says. "I got some on my grass and it was dead as fuckall the next morning. The weeds have adapted."

    Roundup sales plummet mid-year. The company rep calls the feed store. "Farmers ain't buying it no more.," the manager tells him. "They say it don't work no more." It makes headlines across the country.

    The next year, Roundup sales are zero, and there's no market for Roundup Ready seeds. Farmers are looking for other seeds that give the best yield on their soil type and moisture level.

    The only way Monsanto keeps a money stream on the Roundup product is selling it to city dwellers to kill dandelions and crabgrass. But by now it's adapting in the city as well.

    So they either introduce a new plant killer and have a giant campaign to get farmers on board -- farmers who feel screwed by paying for two years of overpriced seeds and worthless chemicals -- or they get out of the seed business.

    Unless they can enforce a patent right on every seed that has their gene in it no matter how many generations removed from their production. Because you can no longer find a pure source of seed uncontaminated by their gene. Too many farmers have grown it and it has cross-pollinated into everybody's crop.

    And it all sounds richly deserved, but then you realize that the same thing is happening with bacteria that attack our bodies. Only slower, because the breeding ground for those germs isn't under as heavy a pressure.

  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel&bcgreen,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 canajin56 (660655) on Thursday April 05, 2012 @09:44AM (#39584047)

    The summary uses the term "patent exhaustion", which some people might not be familiar with. This is the doctrine of first sale for patents. Patents don't just cover the manufacture, sale, or distribution of protected devices/etc, they also cover the use, private, commercial, or any other kind of use. The law as written would therefore mean that you can patent your device, sell it, and then sue your customers for using it. So the courts have decided that OBVIOUSLY they can't do that, so the first time you sell a device, your patent interests are "exhausted" and can no longer be used to prevent the use of that particular device.

    This is a complicated court case because patent exhaustion is not written down anywhere, it's a wibbly wobbly thing. But as usually stated, it covers the one device. You cannot buy one patent device, and then make your own copies and sell them, because only the one device is "exhausted", and the patent is not nullified. On the other hand, patent law says that if you buy a patented device that can make things, then patent exhaustion also allows you to sell the things made by that device, if they are not covered by patents. That is to say, although things made by a patented process are protected by patent law, if you can legally use such a process (whether by license or patent exhaustion) the patent rights no longer extend to the product. So the court here must decide if that includes self-replication.

    On the one hand, the idea behind the Doctrine of Exhaustion is that its pretty obscene to sell somebody something and put the burden on THEM to research all of the currently valid patents to make sure they're allowed to use the damn thing. So that should imply that Exhaustion applies to all intended uses of the patented product. So if a seed is intended to be grown, patent exhaustion would apply to all uses of the final plant. Since for thousands of years farmers have replanted crops using seeds from the last generation, that should be an inalienable intended use of a plant. On the other hand, if you have a Star Trek Replicator which you have rightly patented, its intended use is to make things. So if it can make patented parts of itself, that is part of its intended use? (Other posters here have suggested such a thing). I'm not sure of that. I think for that to apply its intended use would have to be self-replication specifically. That is to say, its purpose is not to make itself specifically, but to make whatever pattern you give it. So patent exhaustion on the replicator would not extend to pattern files you feed it. Besides which, the Doctrine of Exhaustion only applies to unencumbered sales, not to licensed sales or leases or anything else. So if it was truly a concern, they could make you sign a license when you buy the replicator, which explicitly enumerates how you may use the patented device.

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