Biotechnology development in agriculture has raised challenging intellectual property issues. These issues are framed in the context of a three-prong plant patent statutory scheme, involving the Utility Patent Act, the Plant Variety Protection Act, and the Plant Patent Act. The agricultural community, which includes agricultural biotechnology companies, seed companies, and agricultural producers, has debated whether utility patents are excluded from the scope of the Utility Patent Act. Producers contended that Congress superceded the Utility Patent Act when it created the Plant Variety Protection Act and the Plant Patent Act and that sexually reproducing plants (seeds and seed grown plants) are protected exclusively by federal law under the provisions of the Plant Variety Protection Act. Seed companies, on the other hand, retorted that sexually reproducing plants are within the scope of the Utility Patent Act and that neither the Plant Protection Act nor the Plant Variety Protection Act superceded the Utility Patent Act. The dispute was resolved in December 2001, by the United States Supreme Court in J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, holding that utility patents may be issued for plants under the Utility Patent Act, despite distinct protections available under the Plant Variety Protection Act and the Plant Protection Act. This article outlines the factual, procedural, and legal background of the dispute in J.E.M. and explains the rationale and scope of the Supreme Court’s decision. This article also addresses the meaning and significance of the decision to the agricultural community. Articles Editors, Matt Morris & Joe Rupcich.
Michael T. Roberts,
National Aglaw Center Research Article, J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. V. Pioneer Hi-bred International, Inc.: its Meaning and Significance for the Agricultural Community,
S. Ill. U. L.J.
Available at: http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/siulj/vol28/iss1/3