The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed ready to protect Monsanto’s patent rights in a dispute with an Indiana farmer over his planting of the company’s genetically modified soybeans.
The case involves the restrictions that Monsanto places on farmers’ use of a soybean it developed that is resistent to the herbicide Roundup. But the broader issue of patent protection is also important to the makers of vaccines, software and other products.
Questions from the justices during oral arguments indicated that they agreed with the contention of Monsanto and other companies that research and development would dry up if the companies’ patents were easily circumvented.
“Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked.
The rest of the argument wasn’t much easier for Mark P. Walters, the attorney representing farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman.