Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a legal battle between St. Louis-based Monsanto and a 75-year-old farmer from Indiana named Vernon Hugh Bowman.
While some Supreme Court justices have already tipped their hat signifying Monsanto will likely win the case, the issue revolves around whether Bowman violated Monsanto’s patent rights when he planted soybean seeds from a grain elevator.
The seeds purchased from the elevator were intended for animal feed and not for planting, though, as Bowman presumed, they contained Monsanto’s patented, genetically-engineered traits – genes that allow the seeds to survive being sprayed with the company’s widely-used Roundup herbicide.
A panel of legal experts weighed in on the issue.
“A lot of university research centers weighed in on the side of Monsanto. If you let a person buy a self-replicating technology, replicate it and suddenly own it, you are going to lose people who are making inventions at universities and other places like Apple and Microsoft,” Bill Freivogel said.
Catherine Hanaway of Ashcroft Hanaway Law Firm remarked that the case is a “David and Goliath story for individual farmers…This is a pitched battle in the agricultural community. I tend to believe agriculture benefits more from companies such as Monsanto but it’s a very emotional argument. It’s tough.”
Hanaway, Freivogel and Mark Smith joined host Don Marsh for our monthly legal roundtable discussion.
They also discussed a bevy of gun legislation proposed in Missouri, a potential trademark settlement in the case of the Rally Squirrel, which endeared itself to fans during the St. Louis Cardinals 2011 post-season run, and the possible local impacts of sequestration.
More information about our guests:
William Freivogel, J.D., Director, School of Journalism; Associate Professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
Catherine Hanaway, J.D., Partner, Ashcroft Hanaway Law Firm, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, former Republican Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives
Mark Smith, J.D., Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director, The Career Center, Washington University in St. Louis
With assistance from Véronique LaCapra.
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