Cotton fibers hang from a cotton plant on display outside a Monsanto Co. lab in St. Louis (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

Monsanto Can't Have Patent on Bt Cotton in India, Court Says

(Bloomberg) -- Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, can’t own a patent over genetically modified cotton seeds in India, a court ruled on Wednesday.

The Delhi High Court verdict said that certain items such as seeds, plants and animals can’t be patented under Indian laws. The court rejected Monsanto’s plea to stop Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd., an estranged licensee of the company, from selling Bt cotton seeds in India.

The verdict underscores the challenges faced by multinational companies in dealing with the patent laws at a time when the country of about 1.3 billion people is trying to attract foreign companies to invest in mega projects. The government has been trying to strike a balance between the interests of consumers and companies spending in research and innovation, and to ensure that essential items such as seeds and drugs are available to people at affordable prices.

“What it means is effectively Monsanto has no patent on seeds in India and they have never had it. They have tried to hoodwink the seed companies and farmers for years claiming they have a patent and making huge amounts of money from that,” Diya Kapur, a lawyer for Nuziveedu Seeds, told by phone.

The company may challenge the order in the Supreme Court, Bitika Sharma, lawyer for Monsanto, said. A spokesman for Monsanto India declined to comment on the issue saying it was yet to receive a copy of the court order.

Seed Registration

Monsanto can now apply to India’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority for the registration of its Bt cotton seeds and charge a fee, decided by the government body, a two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court, headed by S. Ravindra Bhat, said.

The verdict is another setback for Monsanto, which is being acquired by Germany’s Bayer AG in a $66 billion deal. Last month, India cut the royalty on Monsanto’s genetically modified Bollgard 2 cotton to 39 rupees ($0.60) per 450-gram pack from 49 rupees. As many as 50 million packs of genetically modified cotton seeds are produced each year in the country, according to the National Seed Association of India.

Indian seed companies, which were licensed by Monsanto to produce and sell its genetically modified cotton seeds in the country, may approach the Competition Commission of India to recover the money paid by farmers to Monsanto, Kalyan Goswami, director general of the seed producers’ group said.

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