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Monsanto’s patent claim on cotton seed variety

Monsanto’s appeal against the invalidation of its patent on Bt cotton seed variety Bollgard II has been heard by the Supreme Court on May 7 in a case that will have far-reaching impact on India’s intellectual property (IP) regime.

A Delhi High Court bench had said in an April 11 ruling that Monsanto’s patent was not valid under Section 3(j) of the Patent Act, splitting opinion between those who said it would prevent Indian farmers getting the much-needed benefits of agricultural innovation.

The agri-biotech industry feels the ruling will impact future investment in the sector. However, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research said it will not have any impact on patents and that innovation and new technology will continue to be safeguarded.

A number of patents of agriculture biotech inventions in various crops from wheat to rice that have been granted by various patent authorities across the globe stand the risk of being invalidated because of the judgment.

Many of these patents were not particular to a crop but to a trait such as increasing yield and stress tolerance, which could be used in different crops.
Deepak Pental, who has developed a genetically modified, higher-yielding mustard variety at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, said overseas companies wouldn’t bring new technology to India if patents were not protected.
A representative of the domestic seed industry said the Delhi High Court ruling would not impact any biotech patents.

“All biotech patents which result in transgenic plants can’t make any claims on plants or varieties or seeds. This order clarified that the developer of the transgenic variety can have intellectual property rights under Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer Rights Act and claim for benefit share from all breeders whose varieties express this trait,” he said.
Section 3(j) states that “plants and parts thereof as well as an essentially biological process for production or propagation of plants” are not inventions that can be patented. The court had also directed Monsanto to seek intellectual property protection under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right (PPVFR) Act 2001. It had given Monsanto three months to appeal to the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority for relief under the PPVFR Act.

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