Monsanto’s Bt Cottonseeds Patent Dispute Continues in India

22 Jan 2019

NEW DELHI - In a landmark judgment on January 08, 2019, the Supreme Court (SC) of India set aside the judgment of a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, which had revoked Monsanto’s patent 214436 and remanded the matter to the trial court. The matter is now back to where it began: a suit before the Delhi High Court single judge. At stake is the interpretation of rights and obligations under two distinct laws, the tests used for determining the scope of patent rights under the Patents Act, and breeders rights under the PPVFRA. The issue of patent validity remains open and has not been decided by the court.

Section 3(j) of the Indian Patents Act excludes plants, animals and “essentially biological processes” (for the production of plants and animals) from patent protection. The Delhi High Court relied significantly on European precedents to hold that Monsanto’s claimed invention covering the Bt gene construct and a process for preparing the transgenic Bt Cotton plant amounted to an “essentially biologically process”.

The Delhi High Court ruling came after Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) argued that India's Patent Act does not allow any patent on genetically modified (GM) cottonseeds.

Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) (MMB), a joint venture between Monsanto and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco), sells GM cottonseeds under license to more than 40 Indian seed companies, which in turn sell product to retailers.

Monsanto's Indian joint venture had terminated its contract with NSL in 2015 after a royalty payment dispute, escalating tensions over seed technology.

The Supreme Court also said that Delhi High Court would examine Monsanto's claims that NSL infringed its intellectual property on Bt cottonseeds.

Monsanto has also been battling a proliferation of illegal planting of its herbicide-tolerant cotton varieties.



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