Bayer gets Monsanto reprieve with cotton seed ruling

NEW DELHI • Bayer AG’s Monsanto unit won a legal battle to own patents on genetically modified cotton seeds in India, the world’s biggest producer of the fibre, in a rare piece of good news for the German company.

India’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the company’s patent for Bt cotton seeds is valid, overturning a judgement by the High Court of Delhi saying certain items such as seeds, plants and animals can’t be patented.

The ruling is a boost for Monsanto, which faced the risk of losing revenues without a claim over exclusive rights in India, as the company faces legal challenges in the US over allegations that its Roundup weed killer can cause cancer as well as a backlash in Europe over genetically modified organisms. The verdict may also boost foreign investors’ confidence about the validity of patents awarded to firms in India.

“Pirates cannot be innovators,” said Ashok Gulati, a professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi. “If we are to respect intellectual property, only then we can expect to access the best technologies in the world.”

The ruling may prompt some biotech companies to revive expansion plans that were placed on hold amid restrictions imposed by the government and local courts in recent years.

The High Court’s ruling “essentially means that the patent is in force”, said a spokesman for Bayer in India. Shares of the German company rose 2.2% to €65.39 (RM308) in Frankfurt trading yesterday. — Bloomberg