For Patents, Against Open Access: The Sad State Of University Leadership

Michael Eisen | It Is NOT Junk | February 15, 2013

Quick. Name a leader of a major research university who has taken a courageous stand on any important issue in the last decade. I know they’re out there. They must be. But I can’t think of one. Instead, I’m left dumfounded reading this amicus brief filed in a case – Bowman v. Monsanto – about to be heard by the US Supreme Court.

The case, which pits a farmer who planted soybeans containing Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” technology without paying their license fees, boils down to a question of how much control patent holders have in their invention after it has been sold.

I am very interested in the issues in this case – I strongly support the development and use of geneticly modified crops, but also believe that our patent laws are completely out of whack. So a line in the NYT article on the case that universities had filed a brief on behalf of Monsanto caught my eye – all the more so because by own University of California had signed on.

The basic arguments put forth by the universities is that ruling in favor of the farmer would “greatly diminish, and add uncertainty to, the value of patents covering artificial, progenetive technologies” and would “devalue the extensive benefits achieved by the Bayh-Dole Act”...