The Supreme Court’s decision to hear Bowman v. Monsanto raises concerns over whether the Court will effectively prohibit biotechnology and other high-tech companies from enforcing patents on easily replicable technologies against those who would use those technologies to make an unlimited supply of identical products without paying royalties to the patent-holder.
The Court’s decision on this matter has the potential to determine the role the U.S. patent system plays in protecting innovation – across both the public and private sector. If universities and private biotech firms can no longer rely on the patent system to protect their ability to recoup their R&D costs by preventing such replication, there will be no financial incentive to continue investing in technologies with easily replicable features.
In the agriculture sector alone, Monsanto and its competitors are spending billions of dollars annually on R&D in agricultural biotechnology, pursuing traits that make crops higher yielding and more resistant to various environmental stresses, and to make grains with increased nutritional value.
If Bowman prevails, however, this field of research could be altered severely, as would many other similarly promising fields in medicine, biofuels, and environmental science, as easily replicable technologies would no longer enjoy any meaningful protection under the patent laws. Such a decision could substantially erode the confidence that any party – public or private sector – has in investing towards and delivering easily replicable technologies in these areas.
A number of organizations have voiced their support for Monsanto’s stance and the potential impact of the case across business sectors. To view amicus briefs from industry leaders and other organizations, click here.