Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Intellectual Property: Justices Seem to Favor Corp. in Bowman v. Monsanto (MON)

This is classic grey goo stuff.
Self-replicating technologies baby.
First up, SCOTUSblog with some backround:
Argument preview: Stakes are high in dispute over rights to genetically modified seeds
Bowman v. Monsanto Co., scheduled for oral argument Tuesday, presents a high-stakes question about biotech products: how tightly can Monsanto control what users do with the Roundup-resistant soybean seeds that Monsanto has patented?

Although the practical ramifications are substantial, the doctrinal question is quite elegant.  Like Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, argued during the November sitting, the case involves the “exhaustion” of intellectual property.  Generally speaking, it is usually the case that when an owner of intellectual property sells a specific tangible copy of the product, the user is free to do what it wishes with the product, free of further constraints imposed by the IP owner.  In the common parlance, the first sale of the particular copy by the IP owner is said to “exhaust” patent (or copyright) protection with respect to that object.

This case presents a nice hypothetical question about that doctrine: what happens when the object that is sold has the inherent ability to produce further (perhaps boundless) copies of itself.  Bowman (a soybean farmer) takes the view that once Monsanto sells a particular seed, patent protection ends for the seed.  Because the natural purpose of the seed – the purpose for which Monsanto has designed it – is to produce more seeds, the farmer who plants the seeds he purchases from Monsanto is free to go about his business with the purchased seeds....MORE
And from Dow Jones Newswires:
Supreme Court Voices Skepticism of Challenge to Monsanto Patent Rights 
Several members of the U.S. Supreme Court voiced skepticism Tuesday about a farmer's challenge to the scope of Monsanto Co.'s (MON) patent rights on its Roundup Ready seeds

The company requires growers to use the seeds only for a single crop, and they can't save the "second generation" seeds from the harvest. Monsanto imposes the conditions because its technology, which renders crops resistant to weed killer, reproduces itself in each generation of seeds.

If farmers could replant seeds taken from each harvest, they could avoid paying for Monsanto's biotechnology in future plantings, the company argued to the high court.

During oral arguments Tuesday, the justices considered the unusual planting tactics of Indiana famer Vernon Bowman, who appealed to the high court after Monsanto successfully sued him for infringing its Roundup Ready patents....MORE
So, inquiring minds want to know, where does this leave the iRobot robots laboring away to build robots using 3D printing tech?