In Perspective: Supreme Court tackles biotech patent issue
Another issue at the heart of the case is innovation. Several justices indicated after oral arguments that a ruling for Bowman would stifle innovation in the agricultural biotechnology industry.
“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?” said Chief Justice John Roberts.
It is unknown if the Supreme Court will actually clarify when or if Monsanto’s patents are exhausted after one generation. The court could simply state that Monsanto’s patents extend to second-generation seed, end of story. Hopefully, the court will provide clarification for future understanding of purchasing any seeds that have been patented.
It is hard to imagine the court ruling in favor of Bowman, considering the implications the ruling would have. Patent protection for seed would be crushed and could have implications in other parts of the world where Monsanto is being challenged over royalty fees for its patented seed sold in other countries. The cascade could be devastating for agricultural innovation and technology. In the end, this case isn’t about good vs. evil or David vs. Goliath. It’s about whether seed patents are exhausted after one generation.