* Soybean farmer accused of infringing Monsanto patents
* Supreme Court accepts seven cases for review
By Jonathan Stempel and Terry Baynes
Oct 5 The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to
consider an Indiana soybean farmer's appeal of an appellate
court decision that he infringed Monsanto Co patents
ov e r seeds that can be replicated.
The case is one of seven that the highest U.S. court
decided on Friday to review, with oral arguments likely to be
scheduled for January or February of 2013.
Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, has a reputation
for zealously defending patents on its genetically altered
crops, including Roundup Ready soybeans, corn and cotton.
From 1997 to April 2010, the company filed 144 patent
infringement lawsuits against farmers, who like the seeds
because of their ability to withstand herbicide treatments.
Monsanto would prefer that farmers buy
genetically modified seeds each year.
In the case accepted for review, Vernon Bowman was appealing
a September 2011 decision by the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of
Appeals in Washington that upheld an $84,456 damages award for
The St. Louis-based company had said Bowman was growing more
soybeans than his purchases of seeds containing Roundup Ready
technology could generate.
Bowman countered that he bought the seeds as part of an
undifferentiated mix of "commodity" seeds, and that farmers had
used such seeds for planting, and created "second-generation"
seeds, for decades.
In his appeal, Bowman said the Federal Circuit erred in
forbidding his use of the seeds for a natural and foreseeable
purpose: pl anting. He said earlier court decisions suggested
Monsanto had no rights after it made an initial sale.
Monsanto shares closed on Friday up 52 cents at $91.16 on
the New York Stock Exchange.
The case is Bowman v. Monsanto Co et al, No. 11-796.
FCC CASE, FACT-FINDING BY JUDGES
The Supreme Court also agreed to consider how much deference
to give federal agencies in setting their own jurisdictions, in
two combined cases that could affect the ability to deploy
wireless telephone services nationwide.
At issue is the ability of the Federal Communications
Commission to step in and help further the placement of wireless
communications facilities when state and local governments
failed to act on tower-siting applications fast enough.
Cities including Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Arlington,
Texas, as well as the New Orleans City Council, said that
interfered with their power to enforce local zoning standards.
The cases are City of Arlington et al v. U.S., No. 11-1545;
and Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee of the
New Orleans City Council v. FCC, No. 11-1547.
Other cases that were accepted are:
- Alleyne v. U.S., No. 11-9335: Whether the court should
overrule a 2002 precedent and require a jury, rather than a
judge, to find facts allowing an increase in a mandatory minimum
- Boyer v. Louisiana, No. 11-9953: Whether a state's failure
to pay for a defendant's lawyer, resulting from a decision to
seek the death penalty, should be held against the state in
deciding whether the defendant's right to a speedy trial was
- Gunn v. Minton, No. 11-1118: Whether a software developer
who lost a patent infringement case against Nasdaq could sue his
lawyers for malpractice in a Texas state court, or whether the
case belonged in federal court because it involved patent law.
- Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management, No. 11-1447:
Whether a municipal entity's refusal to award a permit to
develop land unless the owner also agreed to help preserve
Florida wetlands was a "taking" that required compensation.
- McBurney et al v. Young et al, No. 12-17: Whether a state
can give out-of-state residents a lesser right of access to
review public records than it gives its own citizens.
Decisions in the cases are expected by the end of June.