February 19, 2019
The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that multinational agrochemical and agricultural technology company Monsanto can obtain and enforce patent protection for genetically-modified (GMO) cotton seeds.
Monsanto’s appeal to the Supreme Court arose from a 2015 patent infringement lawsuit against India-based Nuziveedu Seeds relating to genetically-modified “Bt” cotton seeds. Bt cotton is a genetically modified product designed to be resistant to the bollworm pest.
Upon termination of a licensing arrangement for the patented seeds, Nuziveedu sought to have Monsanto’s patent cancelled on the grounds that the patent related to unpatentable subject matter. The Delhi High Court denied Monsanto the seed patents in question on the grounds that certain categories of product, including seeds, plants, and animals, could not be patented under Indian law. Media reports suggested that, prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the seeds are patentable, farmers had begun to access unauthorized Bt cotton seeds through the grey market.
The Supreme Court ruling will have significant implications in India, which is the world’s largest producer of cotton. Some commentators have suggested that allowing patent protection for products such as GMO seeds will foster development and agricultural research and will bring greater certainty to the research sector.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that seeds may be patentable, it has remitted the determination of the validity of Monsanto’s specific patent and infringement to the Delhi High Court.
Authors: Amanda Bertucci and Wes Dutcher-Walls