Bowman v. Monsanto, Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Patents, Patent Exhaustion
  • Date Filed: 05-13-2013
  • Case #: 11-796
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Supreme Court
  • Full Text Opinion

Remanufacturing or copying an article is not protected by the patent exhaustion doctrine.

Opinion (Kagan): Monsanto, Co. (“Monsanto”) brought suit against Bowman (“Bowman”) for infringement of its patented “Roundup Ready Soybeans” (“Roundup Ready”) which are resistant to the glyphosphate herbicide (“the herbicide”). Monsanto requires purchasers of the seed to adhere to a strict license agreement limiting the use of the seed to a single planting. Bowman began a practice of purchasing co-mingled (i.e. mixture of unmodified, and genetically modified seed) seed from a local bulk supplier, planted the seed, and then treated the sprouting plants with the herbicide to isolate the Roundup Ready seeds in the mixture. This isolation, and replanting, guaranteed Roundup Ready plants without Bowman paying the premium for, or being subject to, Monsanto’s standard user license. Bowman argued that the patent exhaustion doctrine allowed him to use the patented article freely as a subsequent owner; this defense was rejected in the District Court, and Court of Appeals. Patent exhaustion protects the initial purchaser, and any subsequent owner from infringement claims for use in a normal manner, and resale of the patented article. However, the doctrine does not extend to remanufacturing or copying of the article. When Bowman bought, regrew, and isolated the Roundup Ready plants, he was effectively copying the patented article in manner that exceeded the bounds of patent exhaustion protection. Patents ensure that a party reaps their reward for each single item produced using the patent. When Bowman copied the patented item he subverted Monsanto's legally guaranteed reward, thus infringing Monsanto's patent. AFFIRMED.

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