The Agrochemical company Monsanto’s patent claim over its Bt Cotton seeds was rejected with the Delhi High Court stating that the claim was unenforceable in India. The issue regarding patetability arose from a 2015 sub-licensing agreement between Monsanto Technology LLC and Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd under which seeds were sold to Nuziveedu for which a royalty was paid to Monsanto. Nuziveedu used the donor seeds received from Monsanto in its own breeding programs to inherit certain traits of the seeds. Nuziveedu claimed that the Bt cotton plant varieties developed by it were distinct in characteristics as against the seeds provided to it by Monsanto. After referring the matter to single judge benches of the Delhi High Court and the same being concluded, both the parties filed cross appeals before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, from which the present appeal filed by Nuziveedu was heard and accorded.
While hearing the said appeal, the Division Bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Yogesh Khanna observed that,
“At the outset, this court proposes to examine only the threshold challenge to the patent and not carrying out an analysis of whether prima facie the patent granted (or the claims under it) lacked inventiveness, or novelty or industrial application.”
It was further opined by the Court that “The exclusion of transgenic plants and seeds propagated after hybridization from patentability under section 3(j) of the Patents Act, 1970, is congruent with the amendment of Article 53(b) of the EPC, wherein, patents cannot be granted in respect of plants or animals exclusively obtained by means of essentially biological process.”
While concluding that any injunction against Nuziveedu would affect the access of such seeds to farmers under the Essesntial Commodities Act, the Division Bench upheld the order of the Single Judge directing Monsanto to continue with its obligations under the sub-license agreements and at the same time, it also allowed Monsanto to proceed with respect to the claim for damages in light of the sub-license termination notices issued.
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