News | April 11, 2017 | Read Time: 3 minutes
Saved Seed and Farmer Lawsuits
Enforcing patent law is not much different from the enforcement of other laws. Most people respect the law. Often, honest citizens will report those who break the law. The same is true for patent infringement involving saved seed. The vast majority of farmers respect patent laws and honor their agreements to abide by that law. When one farmer sees another farmer saving patented seed, they will often report them. Many of the tips Monsanto gets about farmers saving patented seeds come from other farmers in the same community.
Usually, cases come to us when someone reports they believe seed is being saved illegally. Monsanto’s attorneys look into these allegations and may have a licensed private investigator look into the facts. If infringement is a possibility, a Monsanto manager will meet with the individuals involved. There have been farmers who were contacted and provided information that resulted in Monsanto closing the case. The vast majority of farmers who are presented with facts showing infringement admit the violation and pay a settlement.
Since 1997, we have only filed suit against farmers 147 times in the United States. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider that we sell seed to more than 325,000 American farmers a year, it’s really a small number. Of these, we’ve proceeded through trial with only nine farmers. All nine cases were found in Monsanto’s favor.
A very small number of farmers involved in patent infringement cases with Monsanto have sought publicity around their cases, and have characterized the company’s actions in a negative light. In some other situations, outside parties have portrayed particular cases negatively. We take exception to any misleading allegation of wrong-doing. Our employees and contractors respect our customers and their property.
Documents and Info Monsanto Provides to Farmers
Growers are expected to stay informed of up-to-date management practices for Monsanto products. The Technology Use Guide provides a concise overview of Monsanto’s current portfolio of technology products and sets forth the requirements and guidelines for use of these products. Growers who wish to purchase and use our patented seed must have a signed and valid Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement.
Monsanto’s primary reason for enforcing its patents is to ensure a level playing field for the vast majority of honest farmers who abide by their agreements, and to discourage using technology illegally to gain an unfair advantage. This document lays out our commitment to farmers when reviewing, evaluating and investigating potential seed patent infringement matters.