The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday on a closely watched patent case. Monsanto sells soybeans that have a genetic modification which makes them resistant to the herbicide, Roundup, which Monsanto also conveniently sells.
Genetically modified seed costs a little over twice natural seed. A farmer in Indiana decided to purchase harvested genetically modified corn and replant it instead of purchasing the expensive seed licensed by Monsanto.
It was a unanimous court decision in favor of Monsanto.
There is a First Sale Doctrine which states that if I purchase something copyrighted from the copyright holder, I have the right to sell or otherwise distribute that particular copy. So the original licensed seeds could have been resold to the farmer without injuring Monsanto. However, those seeds were planted, and essentially new copies of the original copy were made. The First Sale Doctrine is not applicable to replicated copies, just like you cannot make copies of a music CD that you purchased and resell them.
The twist in the case was that mother nature is performing the replication, not an individual. However, in their nuanced decision, the justices ruled it was the farmer responsible for the replication, not the product itself. Mmm. I understand the decision, but not their justification.