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Organic Seed Growers & Trade Ass'n v. Monsanto Co.

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20125
Nos. 2012-1298, (Fed. Cir., 06/10/2013)

The Federal Circuit held that organic farmers lack standing to seek a declaratory judgment of non-infringement with respect to 23 patents owned by a large seed manufacturer. The farmers do not intend to use the manufacturer's seeds, but given the proliferation of genetically modified seeds today, it is likely inevitable that conventional crops will be contaminated by trace amounts of windblown pollen or seeds. As a result, they are concerned that if their crops do become contaminated by transgenic seed, they could be accused of patent infringement. The manufacturer, however, has stated before the court that it will not "take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of [the manufacturer's] biotech genes." The manufacturer has therefore disclaimed any intent to sue inadvertent users or sellers of seeds that are inadvertently contaminated with up to one percent of seeds carrying its patented traits. While these representations are not a covenant not to sue, they have a similar effect. Accordingly, because the growers have alleged no concrete plans or activities to use or sell greater than trace amounts of modified seed, there is no justiciable case or controversy.