75-Year-Old Farmer Takes On Monsanto Over Patent Law

Meet Vernon Hugh Bowman. He just wanted a cheaper option for his second crop of the season. But did he do it illegally?

A case on the Supreme Court's docket this week is shining light onto the growing and changing world of patents in farming, particularly the practice of patenting seed technology. As reported by NPR, the case began when Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75-year-old farmer from Indiana, bought soybeans from a grain operator for a second plant of the season. He assumed, according to the report, that the soybeans were the more expensive (and patented) beans made by Monsanto because most farmers in the area use it. While he also uses the Monsanto technology for his first plant of the season, he told NPR he wanted to get a cheaper option for the more risky late plant.

Monsanto claims that Bowman violated their patent with his money-saving scheme, while his lawyers claim that because of the rule of "patent exhaustion" he was within his rights. The case has drawn attention because it could have implications for patents across farming and in technology in general. This isn't Monsanto's first legal battle -- in 2011 the company was sued by organic farmers and by a consumer group in 2010.

Who do you think will win the case? Let us know in the comments.

[Photo by Flickr user stevebkennedy]

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