Sample Case Study on Bowman v. Monsanto Patent Infringement

Bowman v. Monsanto Patent Infringement


In 2007, Monsanto, producer of soybean seeds that are herbicide resistant sued an Indiana farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman for infringement of patent. Monsanto alleged that this infringement started in 1999 after Bowman who believed that there was a loophole on the patent exhaustion, bought soybean seeds through a grain elevator then proceeded to plan them for the second time that year. Monsanto argues that by planting the seeds rather than buying new ones, Bowman violated the Technology Agreement for the said seeds.

The seeds planted by Bowman were purchased from an elevator where he together with his neighbors sold their crops most of which happed to be transgenic while the elevator was selling the soybeans as commodities rather than seeds to be used for planting. Bowman then tested the seeds and proved they were resistant to the herbicide known as glyphosate marketed under the name Roundup.

Bowman replanted seeds from the second original harvest in the following years after the second seasonal planting then he supplemented them with additional soybeans bought from the elevator. Bowman informed Monsanto about his activities and they in turn stated he infringed on their patents since the soybeans he had purchased from the elevator was new products and that he used them as seeds without getting the appropriate license from Monsanto.

Bowman on the other hand stated that he had not infringed on the patent of Monsanto. He attributed this to the patent exhaustion of the first sale of seeds and that future generations were embodied in the 1st generation that was sold originally. Previously, Bowman had bought Monsanto seeds under contract and made the promise not to save the seeds harvested from resulting crop.

The district court in 2009, made a ruling that favored Monsanto. He appealed and the Federal Circuit still upheld the ruling that was made by the district court. Bowman made another appeal to the US Supreme Court and they granted him a review. However, they also unanimously affirmed the decision made by the Federal Circuit Court on 13th May 2013. Monsanto was awarded damages for violation of their patent.

The ruling was clear that exhaustion of a patent does not allow or permit a farmer to indulge in reproduction of the patented seeds whether it is through harvesting or planting without permission from the holder of the patent. In the months that lead to the decision made by the court, the case drew a lot of attention. Business and researchers that focus on DNA molecules, self replicating technologies and nanotechnologies were among those that had the highest interest in the progress and ruling of the case.

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