The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by organic farmers and others seeking to require Monsanto to promise never to sue farmers if their fields are inadvertently pollinated by plants containing the company's patented genetically modified traits.
The plaintiffs filed suit pre-emptively against the company in March 2011, seeking a ruling that they could not be held liable for patent infringement should their products or fields be found to contain Monsanto’s products. The district court dismissed the suit in Feb. 2012, agreeing with an argument made by Monsanto that the plaintiffs lacked subject matter jurisdiction, finding “it is clear that these circumstances do not amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable to defendants.”
The denial of the petition sets as precedent the earlier appellate court ruling that found farmers and seed companies cannot try to pre-emptively protect themselves from biotech patent claims.
Monsanto’s reaction to this request is that a blanket covenant not to sue any present or future member of petitioners' organizations would enable virtually anyone to commit intentional patent infringement. The company has sued more than 100 farmers for patent infringement, winning judgments against those found to have willfully made use of its seed without paying required royalties.
"Monsanto never has and has committed it never will sue if our patented seed or traits are found in a farmer's field as a result of inadvertent means," said Kyle McClain, the company's chief litigation counsel.
The high court’s denial of the petition is the second recent action this year in favor of the Monsanto’s patent-protection efforts. In May, the Supreme Court voted unanimously in the suit Monsanto v. Bowman to back the company in its claims that an Indiana farmer who was found to be replanting glyphosate resistant soybeans that he had harvested the year before was in violation of the company’s patent.
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