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On Tuesday, February 19, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Bowman v. Monsanto, an extremely important case about the scope of patent licensing rights and their important role in the biotech industry. Nominally, the case is about whether Monsanto can impose a single-use restriction on purchases of its patented genetically modified soybean seed. Bowman, who reused Monsanto's patented seed in violation of express license terms prohibiting him from doing this, says “no” because the seed, unlike patented technologies in the mechanical or high-tech fields, is necessarily “self-replicating.” Monsanto maintains that without the ability to impose the types of use restrictions that patent-owners have legally done since the early 19th century, it cannot recoup its substantial R&D investments in these valuable and life-enhancing products of the biotech revolution. The implications of this case go far beyond genetically modified seeds and the green revolution, as patented isolated DNA, microorganisms, and cell lines used in medical treatments are all “self-replicating.” This case raises fundamental questions about the scope of patent protection over forms of life and how the patent system functions in securing the new innovation that has made the green and biotech revolutions—and the wonders of modern life—possible.
- Prof. Adam Mossoff, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
- Mr. Douglas T. Nelson, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, CropLife America
- Moderator: Mr. Dean A. Reuter, Vice President & Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society