In the midst of our new fight over geoengineering near the Galapagos, we've got good news over a very old fight with Monsanto... Hope Shand just phoned from Munich to say that the European Patent Office has agreed with ETC's arguments and overturned Monsanto's soybean "species" patent. There is no further appeal!!
A Jubiliant legal team (left to Right) Lawyer Tim Roberts, Scientist Ricarda Steinbrecher, Barrister Daniel Alexander and ETC Group's Hope Shand.
Daniel Alexander and Tim Roberts (ETC Group's lawyers) made brilliant arguments. the patent's claim to novelty and sufficiency were knocked down and the entire patent unraveled afterwards.
One of the key arguments that won the day was using Monsanto's original 1994 opposition statement - -the famous Hinchee Declaration. Monsanto originally opposed the patent when it was first granted to Agracetus (see below). They then dropped their opposition when they bought Agracetus and have since used it to bully farmers, grain traders and even countries. It is the most delicious irony that Monsanto's own arguments against the patent (1994) were key in defeating it ultimately. We guess Monsanto used to have smarter lawyers than they do now!
The defeat of the soybean species patent could mark the end of species patent claims by the multinational seed industry. However, the defeat comes barely 2 months before the patent was to die from natural causes. First applied for in 1987, the patent was granted to Agracetus in 1994. At that time, both ETC Group (then RAFI) and Monsanto challenged the claim. Then, Monsanto bought Agracetus and defended the patent. Old-timers will recall that there was a second Agracetus cotton -species patent back then but in the United States. ETC Group (unusually, supported by USDA) blocked the cotton species patent. It was one of the few times that the USDA actually thanked ETC (actually, Hope ) for alerting them to the monopoly risk.
Even at this late hour, the overturning of the second species patent may put an end to such sweeping biotech claims.
The bad news, of course, is that this 20 year battle exposes the hopeless incompetence of the patent system. It has been obvious to just about everybody since the patent was first applied for that the claim should never have been accepted. Despite that, ETC Group has had to go to Munich twice and spend probably $40,000 in legal and travel expenses to halt the patent. Even as we celebrate, we are still engaged in a seemingly endless battle in the US PTO over the Mexican yellow bean (Enola) claim won by Podners company in the US in 1999. Once again everybody agrees that the claim is a prime example of biopiracy but it is held up in the courts and still drags on for another year or two while Podners continues to extract royalties and block Mexican farmers from their traditional US market.
Anyway, back to the Galapagos Islands!
more news to come...