Daily Briefs

U.S. Supreme Court rules for Monsanto in patent case over seeds

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has sustained Monsanto Co.’s claim that an Indiana farmer violated the company’s patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed-killer.
The justices, in a unanimous vote Monday, rejected the farmer’s argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide.
Justice Elena Kagan says a farmer who buys patented seeds must have the patent holder’s permission. More than 90 percent of American soybean farms use Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” seeds, which first came on the market in 1996.
Monsanto has a policy to protect its investment in seed development that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year.
The case had been closely watched by researchers and businesses holding patents on DNA molecules, nanotechnologies and other self-replicating technologies. But Kagan said the court’s holding only “addresses the situation before us.”
Farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman bought the expensive, patented seeds for his main crop of soybeans, but decided to look for something cheaper for a risky, late-season soybean planting.
He went to a grain elevator that held soybeans it typically sells for feed, milling and other uses, but not as seed.
Bowman reasoned that most of those soybeans also would be resistant to weed killers, as they initially came from herbicide-resistant seeds too. He was right, and he repeated the practice over eight years. In 2007, Monsanto sued and won an $84,456 judgment.
Bowman said he should not be liable, in part, because soybeans naturally sprout when planted.
Kagan said the court did not buy that argument. “We think the blame-the-bean defense tough to credit,” she said.
The case is Bowman v. Monsanto Co., 11-796.

Dirk Beckwith named president-elect of TLA

Dirk Beckwith, shareholder at the law firm of Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC, has been named as the President-Elect of the Transportation Lawyers Association (TLA).  The TLA is an independent, international bar association comprised of more than 1,000 attorneys, whose members assist providers and/or commercial users of logistics and transportation services, regardless of mode.
Beckwith will begin serving his presidential term in May of 2013.
Beckwith has experience representing transportation companies and handles both regulatory and administrative matters for those engaged in the transportation industry. He has been involved in several landmark decisions for the trucking and railroad industries, as well. During the past year he has served as the TLA’s first vice president and as editor of TLA’s publication entitled “The Transportation Lawyer.” Beckwith is also a member of the Association for Transportation Law Professionals. He is active in the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, Transportation Loss Prevention and Security Association and the Conference of Freight Council. Beckwith is a graduate of the University of Michigan and earned his law degree from the Wayne State University Law School.


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