I don’t know why it affected me so personally, but I was really sad to see Vernon Bowman lose the soybean case to Monsanto. I guess he’s like the Grandpa I never had growing up because we lived 2000 miles away from either set of grandparents as a result of
family feuds my father’s job. But if I could have picked a grandpa to be mine, it would’ve been him, with his cool tractor and mustache, and even cooler dog.
Alas, Monsanto’s attorneys were able to convince the Supreme Court that my proxy Granddad is an intellectual property thief because he planted soybeans and they (*GASP*) grew in the ground, as seeds are wont to do.
I read about the decision and felt compelled to complain. First of all, I need to get out more because I didn’t realize that Monsanto actually manufactured the RoundUp product and gave exclusive rights to sell it to Scott’s, who distributes the product. So what you’re telling me is that you’ve made a pesticide, and then genetically engineered a soybean that is resistant to it? Maybe I don’t understand science even though I watch The Big Bang Theory religiously, but why couldn’t you just have created a pesticide that only killed, you know, pests to begin with? It seems a little double-dip-ish to create a solution to a problem that creates another problem that you then create another solution for. (If you’re an Aggie or a patent troll, you might have to read that last sentence twice.)
Nevertheless, here’s what happened:
Vernon Bowman, an Indiana farmer, thought he had come up with a clever way of avoiding the cost of paying Monsanto’s licensing fee. Bowman bought soybeans that were sold to be consumed, not planted, from a grain elevator, planted them, sprayed them with Roundup Ready, and then planted the seeds from the surviving plants. (Such seeds were of course from Roundup Ready plants, since they had survived the spraying of Roundup).
OK first of all? Don’t talk about my proxy Granddad like that. “Thought he had come up with a clever way of avoiding the cost of paying Monsanto’s licensee fee.” Is that really what he did? It was on purpose, what he did?
You know what? Maybe it was. But what I’d like to know is what are Monsanto’s damages from this guy? Because I find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to believe that
My Granddad’s Mr. Bowman’s crops have hurt the sale of Monsanto’s RoundUp ready seeds in any substantial way. Now, if he had planted the soybeans that were meant for consumption rather than actual seeds, spent the time to plant them and harvest derivative RoundUp ready seeds, and marketed and sold them as an alternative to Monsanto’s patented first-generation seeds, then I might be more willing to sit down with him over a glass of sweet tea and possibly a splash of whiskey and say “Grandpa? You really shouldn’t do that.”
But for him to legally purchase soybeans, plant them, take seeds from those plants and plant them, and for those seeds to have inherited the RoundUp resistance of the original bean seems way on down the food chain and seriously, how much did it cost Monsanto to sue this guy anyway? Did anyone but the lawyers even win any money? Wait, don’t answer that. The answer is always “NO.”
Either way, the personalities of both monolithic Monsanto and sweet farmer Bowman are what kept this case in the news. We know it cannot possibly be about the details of the doctrine of patent exhaustion because OMG how boring can you get? Who’s reading a bunch of articles about that?
No, it’s the whole Play-Uhs Gonna Play doctrine that kept this thing exciting. Which brings me to the second main point of this whole post: even though Monsanto won the war, no one rocks a puffy coat like Mr. Vernon Bowman:
Put that in your Supreme Court docket and smoke it, folks.