So yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the federal lawsuit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, throwing it out of court. By doing so, all of the lower court rulings regarding those issues were upheld, meaning our old agrochemical buddies at Monsanto retain the right to sue any infringers of their GMO patents. This means that if a farmer’s regular, non-patented crops get accidentally cross-pollinated with Monsanto’s genetically-enhanced, patented crops— which the SCOTUS formally admits will definitely happen— the farmer whose crops were altered can still be sued by Monsanto for theft. Even if those regular non-Monsanto crops were organic ones, which are completely ruined by ANY cross-contamination. That’s like letting a house painter accidentally spray-paint your car in your driveway when the wind blows the spray across the property line, then allowing the same house painter to have you arrested for stealing the paint that’s on your car.
Now, when Monsanto loses control of its own seeds and they cross the fence-line to pollute someone else’s nearby organic harvest, the poor wounded corporate giant can just target individual farmers and legally pick them off, one by one. Sweet.
The decision also firmly cements the assertion that “plants can be patented” in American law. Nice job, SCOTUS. Way to defend your corporate masters against those pesky heartland farmers! You’ve really outdone yourself.
But here’s a bit of good news, in which we actually congratulate a big corporation for winning a lawsuit against the little guy: because in the following case, the “little guy” was a thieving, money-grubbing jerk.
Remember when we discussed “Patent Trolls?” Well, earlier this week Nintendo announced that it had just bought out the patent portfolio of an alleged Patent Troll who was forced to liquidate all of its assets to pay Nintendo’s massive legal bill after unsuccessfully suing Nintendo for infringement. IA Labs was ordered by the court to cough up $280,000 of Nintendo’s legal expenses after a June ruling in Federal Circuit Court affirming that Nintendo’s Wii Fit game did NOT infringe patents held by IA Labs. When IA Labs was unable to pay that amount, the company was forced to sell everything it owned… including THOSE SAME (non-infringing) patents. WHICH NINTENDO TOTALLY BOUGHT.
To clarify: a “Patent Troll” sat on a set of patents until a big corporation monetized something akin to the patented technology; then, after the corporation developed a successful product along a similar line, the Patent Troll took the big corporation to court hoping to cash in on the previously-unknown patents and force the corporation to settle, giving them a big pay day for nothing.
Except the originator of a frivolous patent lawsuit can— occasionally— be held responsible for ALL legal costs if they lose. Which they DID, and wound up losing the very patents they fought over in the first place. There is also a bill in Congress to revise patent laws further, and no longer give carte blanche to the type of high tech patent trollery seen in the past.
Despite my complete ambivalence when it comes to video games and their assorted gaming platforms, I score that as a definite win against Corporate Malfeasance! Just because the winner happens to be a larger corporation than the loser is no reason not to champion responsibility and justice in today’s business world, whenever and wherever it appears.