Supreme Court backs Monsanto on GM cotton patents

Allows U.S. firm to pursue patent suit on Bt cotton variants

January 08, 2019 04:31 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 09:39 am IST - NEW DELHI

The view of the cotton farm in Ranjan Kottai Village in Perambalur District in Tamil Nadu.

The view of the cotton farm in Ranjan Kottai Village in Perambalur District in Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a Delhi High Court Division Bench decision that held that U.S. agro major Monsanto did not have patent for its genetically-modified BT cotton seed variants and allowed it to claim registration under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001.

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and Navin Sinha held that the High Court’s Division Bench had no business to go into the merits of the patent rights and should have just confined itself to the validity of an injunction granted earlier by a Single Judge of the High Court in March 2017.

The judgment, authored by Justice Sinha, restored the decision of the Single Judge. It remanded the case back to the Single Judge for disposal of the patent suit between Monsanto and Indian end-users like Nuziveedu.


Monsanto had sought a restraint on these Indian companies from selling, using seeds/hybrid seeds bearing its patented technology.

Sub-licence agreement

The issue dates back to 2004 when Monsanto entered into a sub-licence agreement with companies like Nuziveedu for an initial period of 10 years. The agreement had entitled the Indian firms to genetically modified hybrid cotton planting seeds with help of Monsanto’s technology and to commercially exploit it within the limits of the agreement on the payment of a licence fee.

However, the agreement was terminated in November 2015, giving rise to the patent suit. The Single Judge, in March 2017, in an interim relief, restored the sub-licence agreement and ordered the parties (Monsanto and companies like Nizuiveedu) to adhere to their obligations under it.

Now, the Supreme Court has restored this Single Judge decision.

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