Court dismisses Monsanto lawsuit

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW YORK — The U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York on Feb. 24 dismissed a lawsuit that claimed 23 patents from St. Louis-based Monsanto were invalid and unenforceable.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association along with more than 60 other farmers and seed businesses filed the lawsuit on March 29, 2011. It involved Monsanto patents on such products as transgenic seed known as “Roundup Ready.”

Growers who wish to use the seeds must obtain limited-use licenses to do so. They may grow a single crop and are not authorized to harvest and plant a second-generation seed produced from the original planting. Transgenic seeds, however, may contaminate non-transgenic crops through a variety of ways, such as seed drift or cross-pollination.

The plaintiffs argued they inadvertently might acquire trace amounts of patented seed or traits and feared being sued. Monsanto replied it would not exercise its patented rights over inadvertently acquired trace amounts, but Monsanto refused to waive any claim for patent infringement it may ever have against the plaintiffs.

The court on Feb. 24 pointed out none of the plaintiffs ever claimed contamination has occurred in any crops they have grown or seed they have sold. The court found no evidence that any farmer has been decertified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program because of seed contamination. Finally no plaintiffs ever alleged Monsanto demanded royalty payments from them.
Monsanto between 1997 and April 2010 filed 144 lawsuits to enforce patent rights against farmers, but the company never filed a patent-infringement suit against a certified organic farm or handling operation over the presence of patented traits in its operations.

“Taken together, it is clear that these circumstances do not amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable to defendants,” the court said.

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