European Top Court Tells Monsanto It Can't Abuse Patent Law To Stop Import Of Argentinian Soymeal

from the live-by-the-patent... dept

Seed giant Monsanto is a case study in how abusing patent laws can create serious anti-competitive results. Monsanto, of course, patented various genetically modified seeds, and then aggressively used patent laws around the world to make it so that it was effectively impossible to do much without having to pay Monsanto. The US Supreme Court made things even worse a few years back by saying that Monsanto’s patents were infringed upon when farmers hung onto seeds from this year’s crop to plant next year (a very common practice in farming). Last week, the US Supreme Court again helped out Monsanto by ruling (mostly) in its favor in another case concerning Monsanto seeds.

However, the company is starting to see a lot more problems with its aggressive stance around the world. This week, the European Court of Justice smacked down Monsanto over its attempt to bar the import of Argentinian soymeal. Apparently Monsanto had failed to get a patent on its famous Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina (which now dominate the market), and dealt with it by blocking the import of such soybeans to other countries. Argentinian producers figured that if they couldn’t sell soybeans directly, they could process it into soymeal and sell that. Monsanto claimed that because the soymeal came from soybeans that would be patented in Europe, the soymeal was also infringing. The court disagreed.

That the court disagreed wasn’t a huge surprise. The court had more or less made that clear a few months ago. Because of that, Monsanto tried to duck an important ruling against it by settling the dispute and withdrawing the original patent complaint. The European Court seemed to decide it wasn’t going to let Monsanto off that easily. Even with the complaint withdrawn, the Court still went ahead with the judgment, making the point clear.

Separately, some governments are now kicking off investigations into Monsanto’s advertising statements about the very same Roundup Ready soybeans. Combine all of that and Monsanto also reported dreadful earnings, with a 45% profit drop.

Once again, we’re seeing what happens when you live off of artificial monopolies. They can make you rich in the short term, but they’re no trick to building sustainable businesses. What the government gives in the form of monopoly rights, it can also take away.

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Companies: monsanto

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Comments on “European Top Court Tells Monsanto It Can't Abuse Patent Law To Stop Import Of Argentinian Soymeal”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think you understand. Monsanto is a million times worse than the RIAA. The RIAA is just entertainment. Monsanto is monopolizing food.

They routinely use legal costs to put small farmers out of business. They throw up a patent infringement lawsuit, and $500,000 later, the farmer has no hope of ever seeing profitability again.

Whereas the RIAA is just the old guard seeing the death of a natural monopoly on distribution, Monsanto is an active monopolist who have 2 supreme court justices as former employees. They have people with strong company ties in every relevant government office.

They sued a guy for patent infringement for cross fertilization through a nearby field. They are evil.

Anonymous Coward says:

I believe you meant to say that the 45% represents a net earnings drop for the third quarter of this year versus the third quarter of last year.

Apparently its seed business is holding its own, but it is taking a beating in the herbicide market in the face of what seems to be some pretty stiff competition from other brands and generics.

Razor Runner (profile) says:


The fact that Monsanto tried to sue a dairy farm (and by association, the state of Maine) shows just how hellbent they are on completely monopolizing the realm of agri-products.
How a company can honestly sue a dairy because their commitment NOT to use an artificial hormone makes them look “bad” in the consumers eyes is laughable at best.
Much less that they’d sue a farmer for trying to get the most out of what they paid for by using a few left overs. C’mon….really?!

Anonymous Coward says:

We also need to be concerned about the lack of diversity. 97% of U.S. soybeans are Monsanto. I think it is about 80% Monsanto corn and the corn is pervasive, penetrating our food supply through beef, chicken, and pork, modified proteins as preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and the like.

If all the music is the same and suddenly no one can tolerate it, then it shouldn’t be hard to weather a few years by relying on the classics and public domain, and then wait for artists to make different music.

If all the food is the same, however, and the currently increasing corn allergies soar or a disease attacks the mono-culture, if Round Up resistant weeds choke out the Monsanto seeds, or if the oil supply fails and we can’t grow these lame plants anymore for lack of petroleum fertilizer, then we get a famine, and replacing the collapsed crop with the genetic diversity Monsanto litigated out of cultivation will take longer than the canned food will support us.

Anonymous Coward says:

And don’t forget Monsanto will arrive on a farmer’s doorstep and confiscate his records, computer, and other property because he is ~not~ buying or planting Monsanto seed, but a neighbor did, and some of his pollen tainted the non-Monsanto field. They then litigate until said farmer (who doesn’t have his records to defend himself) gives up and goes out of business.

The land is then sold to meet the court costs, and when it has been turned under to “development” it will never be regained.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dear Mike:

This is more of a tech blog. I’m sure there are many many other blogs out there that fulfill the Monsanto is evil niche. and I do agree, Monsanto is very evil, but for this blog to fully appreciate it would distract from some of the other issues this blog discusses which would probably diminish value to some of its niche members who I’m sure can find many many other blogs out there that go into tons of detail about Monsanto if they wanted to.

Of course that’s not to say that the scope of this blog can’t overlap with Monsanto issues from time to time, it certainly does, and when it does Techdirt discusses it. But I don’t think it’s a good idea for Mike and perhaps posters here to spread their discussion scope too thin, because that requires a lot more time keeping up with and investigating Monsanto in detail and being that time is limited it takes away from some of the details that can be discussed on other topics.

What might be a good idea is if other Techdirt moderators focused on Monsanto and perhaps blogged about it, moderators who can spend time investigating these issues and formulating defensible positions in more detail without taking away Mike’s time used to come up with defensible positions on the topics that he discusses. Then again, I’m sure there are many many other blogs that do that already.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dear Mike:

I can’t agree with you: Monsanto uses ‘tech’, as in gene-splicing and other genetic modifications, claims copyrights, patents, and trademarks on these modifications and then heavy-handedly litigates against any and all who would thwart their dominance. The cross-polinating case is a superb example. How can anyone, with a straight face, justify suing a farmer because his neighbor’s crops cross-polinated his own? Keep in mind, this is the WIND that committed this heinous act, not either farmer. I guess all farmers are supposed to erect glass domes around their farms to keep from infringing on Monsanto’s copyrights/patents? Techdirt is absolutely the right forum for disclosing Monsanto’s behaviour, even if there are other blogs that also do this.

Uncle B says:

$Monsanto and $Microsoft - The Corporatists

As America recedes from greatness internationally due to over-manipulated fiat dollars and unfair, irresponsible, erratic and even illegitimate business practices, Asians present a “Better Formula” to the world and are widely accepted as fast as Yankee Doodle and his “carpet-baggers” are rejected. Yankee! “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time” Especially if the slant eyed competition plays with an unmarked deck and gives value for money spent! Now! go eat your hormone infested meat, drink your hormone laced milk, drive your planned obsolescent cars, and live in your McMansions in peace – but don’t expect the rest of the world to pay for this mayhem – we are too busy doing honest business and getting return for dollars spent with Asians. There was a time when Made in America meant value for dollar spent – a time when merry Oldsmobile’s were in abundance and Bing Crosby was a big star. Detroit once ruled the Automotive world, and America’s Automotive engineers were the finest in the world. These days have been sold out to Asian interests by our Uber-Rich, as we were! Now we have a new paradigm, a new, desperate and destructive corporatist in America! Google, torrent the movie, “Who Stole The Electric Car” for documentation on his destructiveness to the average patriot, and to the country. Soon, the BYD electric volt knock-off made in Shanghai will be sold on American streets at high mark-ups with wide profit margins for the Corporatists. Nothing in democracy can stop the corporatists invasive cancer in the heart of our democracy – the corporatists even lobby our government to circumvent our votes and we are doomed in America to a Third World existence, coming in the troughs of the next down-cycle of our economy. Check the price of oil as an indicator of this fate for the patriots of America and remember, we are owned partially by oil baron corporatists and partially by Chinese communists!Damned if we do! Damned if we don’t!

Voice says:

Monsanto is different from a lot of other companies that appear on this website in that they are actively destroying the lives of people. Monsanto doesn’t keep people from enjoying free culture or make it difficult for a small business to start up by getting idiotic laws passed. Monsanto takes farmers, most of whom have been farming for generations, and bankrupts them, destroying their lives and livelihood and sending them into debt from which they will never recover.

Monsanto is one of the very few truly evil companies posted about on this site.

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