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Monsanto’s Patent on GM Cotton Seeds Valid: SC

Sheetal Dhamecha
Sheetal Dhamecha

The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that Monsanto’s patent claim on genetically modified (GM) Bt. cotton was valid. The order set aside a 2 May order of the Delhi High Court, which had held that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian law by companies such as Monsanto Inc., and that royalties on GM technology would be decided by a specialized agency of the agriculture ministry. 

Monsanto's GM cotton seed technology dominates 90 per cent of India's cotton acreage. Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, a joint venture between Monsanto and India’s Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco), sells GM cotton seeds under license to more than 40 Indian seed companies as against a ’trait fee’ fixed by the government. According to the National Seed Association of India, about 50 million packs of genetically modified cotton seeds are produced each year in the country.

The ruling is the result of years of legal battles between Monsanto and domestic seed companies, led by Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL.) Licensees of the U.S. Company’s seeds in India had petitioned in the court to cancel Monsanto’s patent. Monsanto had lodged counter cases for patent infringements by Indian companies. It had terminated its contract with NSL in 2015 due to disputes over royalty payments.

The court said that the Delhi High Courts shall examine claims of the company on infringement of its intellectual property rights by NSL. 

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