February 20, 2013 - The patent lawsuit between agriculture giant Monsanto and Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75-year-old soybean farmer, seems to be going Monsanto's way as both the liberal and conservative justices apparently agree with Monsanto.
"Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?" asked Chief Justice John Roberts.
The lawsuit originated because although Bowman agreed not to plant second-generation seeds when he purchased Monsanto's genetically-modified soybean seeds, he then purchased a mix of "junk seeds" for the off-season that also included second-generation Monsanto seeds. Like the first-generation seeds he had purchased directly from Monsanto for his main crops, these cheaper, off-season seeds were also genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup pesticides.
Monsanto sued Bowman in 2007 for the profits he made from the Monsanto seeds that he bought from a third party for off-season use.
As the Supreme Court Justices attempt to determine how to rule in the case, the U.S. government also weighed in on Monsanto's behalf. Attorney Melissa Arbus Sherry argued against Bowman's claim of "reasonable use" and compared Bowman's alleged infringement to software piracy.
"I can purchase software," she said. "One reasonable use would be to make a dozen other copies to give to my friends or sell on eBay. It's a reasonable use, but it's an infringing one."