Do you remember reading our article titled – 'The Seed of Contention'1 published in June 2018? If not, here's a brief on the same - The Delhi High Court in April, 2018 held that items such as seeds, plants and animals can't be patented under Indian laws. We concluded the article by stating that - The Supreme Court's decision in the Monsanto case is eagerly awaited as several other biotech patents may be invalidated on similar grounds.
Well, the much awaited Supreme Court verdict is now out. Before we jump into the judgment let us give you a brief background. The entire case saw its inception back in 2015, when Monsanto Technology LLC terminated the sublicense agreement entered into with an Indian based company Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd. in 2004. As per the terms of the agreement, Nuziveedu could develop - Genetically Modified Hybrid Cotton Planting Seeds with the help of technology provided by Monsanto and also commercially exploit the same subject to some limitations. Further, Nuziveedu was to pay a license fee to Monsanto for the access to Monsanto's technology. The patent held by Monsanto deals with Bollgard-II Bt cotton seed technology, which is a Genetically Modified variant that resists the bollworm pest. However, due to disputes relating to payments of license fee, the agreement was terminated in late 2015 by Monsanto. The matter was then heard by the trial court which resulted in a win for Monsanto however, in its appeal at the High Court, the decision of the lower court was reversed.
The Supreme Court earlier this month reversed the judgment passed by the Delhi High Court stating that:
1. The Supreme Court restored Monsanto's patent claim on genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton until its validity is decided by a Single Judge of the Delhi High Court. As a result of this decision the patent will be enforceable in India for now. Hence, it is important to note that the Patentability of the (GM) Bt cotton has not been decided yet.
2. The Single Judge in March, 2017 had dismissed Monsanto's plea against Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd alleging that it was using technology patented by Monsanto even after termination of license. The two judge bench of the Supreme Court restored this plea.
3. The Supreme Court also set aside the order stating that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian law.
4. The court further directed Monsanto to continue with its obligations under the sub-license agreements and allowed "the suit to proceed with respect to the claim for damages and other reliefs", in the light of the sub-license termination notices issued by Monsanto.
This however, is not the end of the story, since there is certainly going to be a 'Seed of Contention 3.0' as the matter with regard to the validity of the patent has now been allotted to a Single Judge at the Delhi High Court for adjudication.
Compiled by: Adv. Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan
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