The Evolution of An Argument



Each year, for his “first crop” of soybeans, Bowman purchases Roundup Ready® seeds from Pioneer Hi-Bred, an authorized dealer of such seeds. He signs a Technology Agreement in which he agrees to use the purchased seed only for planting a single commercial crop, and agrees not to save and replant any of the soybeans he harvests from that crop.

May 1999  

Bowman writes to Monsanto to ask whether a technology fee is required if he wishes to save harvested Roundup Ready® soybeans for replanting. Monsanto responds a month later; it explains its patent rights and informs Bowman that he is not permitted to save and replant Roundup Ready® soybeans.


For his “second crop,” Bowman purchases and plants soybeans from a grain elevator. The grain elevator sells “commodity” soybeans harvested by many area growers. Because almost 95% of soybean acres in Indiana consist of Roundup Ready® soybeans, soybeans sold by the grain elevator are likely to possess that trait.

Bowman applies a glyphosate-based herbicide to his second crop, killing any soybean plants that do not contain Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® trait. Nearly all of Bowman’s soybean plants survive, indicating that they possess the trait. Bowman harvests the Roundup Ready® soybeans that are produced, and saves some for replanting the next year.


Each year, for his “second crop,” Bowman replants the Roundup Ready® soybeans he saved from the previous year’s second crop. He also replenishes his stock with additional soybeans that he purchases from the grain elevator. He sprays these crops two or more times each year with a glyphosate-based herbicide, killing any soybean plants that do not contain the Roundup Ready® trait—obtaining the benefits of Monsanto’s patented innovation.

October 12, 2007  

Monsanto files a patent infringement suit against Bowman based on the new generations of Roundup Ready® soybeans grown by Bowman from those he purchased from the grain elevator.

September 30, 2009  

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana grants Monsanto’s motion for summary judgment and enters final judgment in Monsanto’s favor. The court rules that Bowman infringed Monsanto’s patents, and eventually awards Monsanto $84,456.20 in compensatory damages.

October 30, 2009  

Bowman appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

September 21, 2011  

The Federal Circuit unanimously affirms the judgment of the district court. The Federal Circuit holds that Bowman did not have the right to produce new and unauthorized soybeans containing Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® trait.

December 20, 2011  

Bowman files a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.

August 24, 2012  

The United States government files a brief as amicus curiae, arguing that the Federal Circuit correctly ruled that Bowman infringed Monsanto’s patents.

October 5, 2012  

The Supreme Court grants the petition and agrees to hear the case.


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