Patent on Bean Rejected in Appeal – Victory for Latin American Farmers

Best news I’ve seen in a long while. It starts out a once upon a time nightmare:

In 1999 a US citizen – Larry Proctor goes down to Mexico, buys some beans in a market, comes back to Colorado and plants it, saves seed for a few seasons, and applies for a patent based upon the beans distinctive yellow color. Granted. When the US Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) granted this those of us in the seed world were shocked. It was the most egregious misapplication of the patent process imaginable.

Since that time farmers throughout Latin America have been threatened with lawsuits for planting the bean – the same bean they have been saving for generations – a Monsanto like mafia tactic. Luckily the International Center for Tropical Agriculture challenged the patent. The challenge has been a long path, with intermittent victories, including a final rejection of the patent in 2005. Proctor appealed that 2005 decision, and yesterday he lost that appeal – with the USPTO fully rejecting all his claims on the bean. His last leg would be to appeal to the Supreme Court. I think it’s unlikely that he would do so based on cost, but if he does (with the help of other big pocket biopirates) and loses, it would be a landmark case against biopiracy and the patenting of indigenous plant genetic materials.

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One Response to Patent on Bean Rejected in Appeal – Victory for Latin American Farmers

  1. Christopher Lynt says:

    As a patent attorney, I am so glad to see this patent fall. Patents, a limited market monopoly, should reward real innovation and not such blatant theft as here.
    Perhaps the Seed Alliance or some other entity should consider pursuing a defensive patent or publication tact? If all the world’s natural seed stock was cataloged and published or patented and then dedicated to the public, this would cut the legs out from under the pirates.
    One minor correction: If appealed from the USPTO, the case would go to the CAFC (Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) before reaching the US Supreme Court on appeal from the CAFC.
    Keep up the good work!

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