Monsanto Canada v Schemiser

Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser
2004 1 S.C.R. 902, 2004 SCC 34

Overview: this case is a Canadian case that involves patent rights for biotechnology. Monsanto’s patents covered the genetically modified plant cells, but not the plants themselves.

Procedural History and Facts:
• Monsanto invented a genetically modified plant – this plant had a specially designed resistant gene, so that the canola plant would essentially be resistant to the Roundup brand of herbicides. These plants would grow while the surrounding area was treated with herbicides, but the resistant genes within the plants would not allow the plant to be harmed or disrupted in any fashion. Purchasers of the seed had to enter into an agreement with Monsanto and agree to purchase the seeds each year, and pay a licensing fee.
• In 1997, a farmer (canola breeder and grower) who also grows canola plants discovered plants in his field that were resistant to the Roundup brand of herbicide.
• The farmer harvested his crops, sold some as feed, and kept some of the seeds to be replanted the following season.
• Monsanto sued for patent infringement claiming that the farmer should have obtained a license from Monsanto to use the plants.
• The farmer claims that his discovery was accidental and he had no knowledge of the Roundup ready seeds that Monsanto manufactured.
• This case went to federal court.

Reasoning: the farmer did on fact stumble upon the Roundup resistant strain of crops. However, the reason for this is because several other farmers in the area were already using the Monsanto seeds – the strain of crops were able to travel to ∆’s farm and in turn the farmer was growing Roundup ready crops thanks to his neighbors paying for the seeds and the licensing fee from Monsanto. The famer was using the seeds in violation of patent law and was infringing on π’s rights.

Holding: the court ruled in favor of Monsanto. However, the court did not order that the ∆ pay damages or attorney’s fees.

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