Biotech companies are on the cutting-edge of intellectual property because the intellectual property ownership of biological entities is one of the most controversial legal issues of the 21st century. In the early 1980s, the first genetically modified plants were created in the University of Ghent in Belgium. Simultaneously and independently, three American universities developed their own genetically modified organisms. The Belgian scientists were granted a European patent on the genetically modified plant and it expired in December of that year.
Shortly after the Belgian patent expired, the American biotech company, Monsanto, obtained those two European patents. The Monsanto patents expired and genetically modified plants were available to use without intellectual property limitations. Biotech companies were granted the ability to patent genetically modified organisms because they were considered new creations, and not bona fide products of nature. US patents for genetically modified organisms were shortly granted thereafter. It was the US Supreme Court case, Diamond v. Chakrabarty that established the legal precedent that sanctified the patenting of genetically modified organisms in the United States. The Court ruled that genetically modified organisms were no longer creations of nature after the US patent office denied patent rights to an employee of General Electric, Ananda Mahan Chakrabarty's invention of a bacterium that was capable of breaking down crude oil. The Court ruled in his favor based on the reasoning that the fact that micro-organisms are alive does not present a significant enough legal issue for the purposes of patent law. Chakrabarty's development of his special bacteria was considered a "manufacture" by the Court and was thus given patent protections.
Since the Diamond v. Chakrabarty ruling, biotech patent attorneys have worked with the biotech industry to represent the biotech's industry's legal and commercial interests. Since then biotech companies like Monsanto have patented a special genetically modified soy bean crop that is resistant to the herbicide Round-Up. Biotech patent attorneys were instrumental in Monsanto granting of the patent on a product that effectively forces soy farmers to buy monsanto seeds to match the herbicide. biotech patent attorneys have also helped the biotech industry patent a special type of agricultural seed that is known as the "self-destruct" seed. For the last 20,000 years of agriculture, humanity has been able to grow crops from buying a packet of seeds once. The plant will naturally seed and those seeds can be planted next year. Biotech industry developed the "self-destruct" seed so that farmers have to buy seeds every year from the seed supplier. Biotech attorneys uphold this cutting-edge application of intellectual property law. A biotech attorney has a strong background in the sciences because the nature of biotech industry is science and technology driven. A biotech patent attorney serves the interests of the biotech industry by using Diamond v. Chakrabarty and existing intellectual property law to get patents on genetically modified organisms. A biotech attorney has an understanding of the state of the art in the biotech industry and uses this knowledge to make the law suit the needs of the industry.
In the recent Supreme Court case, Monsanto v. Geerston Seed Farms, court ruled that the genetically modified alfalfa crops were a viable agricultural practice. Therefore, the complainant, Geerston Seed Farms, was not granted the injunction of the growing of Monsanto's Round-Up resistant alfalfa crop. The biotech attorney on the side of Geerston Seed Farms used scientific evidence as a means of arguing for the injunction against Monsanto's genetically modified crop on the grounds that plants naturally sends spores in the air to reproduce. The biotech attorney's client is an organic farming company that grows organic alfalfa. Therefore, the organic integrity of the Geerston seed farms would possibly violate the USDA's guidelines on what is and what is not an organic crop. Alfalfa is America's most widely grown crop; it is mostly an animal feed. Another basis of argument for the injunction was biological evidence that the Round-Up ready alfalfa does not fight against weeds because weeds would evolve to become super-weeds. Thus, the very existence of Monsanto's crop was not justified; therefore an injunction on the growing of round-up ready alfalfa near the Geerston Seed Farm's property would be in their client's interests.
Monsanto's biotech attorney argued that since 2005, Round-Up ready alfalfa was approved by the FDA. Thus, it posed to definitive threat to organic agriculture. The evidence for the super-weeds was also refuted by Monsanto's biotech attorney. The Court reversed the injunction that was granted by the lower court. However, it upheld the fact that the sale of Round-Up ready will be illegal until the FDA further reviews the crop. Both sides claimed victory in the case.
A biotech patent attorney is mostly concerned with granting patents for the new creations of the biotech industry. However, a biotech attorney sometimes goes through major precedent making litigation like Monsanto v Geerston Seed Farms or the landmark Diamond v. Chakrabarty. Biotech attorneys do one of the most cutting edge types of legal practice because the modification of biological entities has been controversial since the Chakrabarty case. Many of the bio-ethical and legal issues surrounding the biotech industry have not been settled yet. The biotech industry uses intellectual property attorneys to patent genetically modified organisms so that competitors and market share could be expanded. Farmers, if they chose to use GMO seeds, must remain loyal to using a biotech companies "self-destruct" seeds as a term of their contractual agreement with the biotech company. Farmers try GMO crops because they yield fruitful harvests. However, if they use seeds after the harvest, they might be liable for infringement of the biotech company's intellectual property.
In order to avoid lawsuits, farmers buy GMO seeds from the biotech company at the company's asking price. The price is high given the fact that company practically has a monopoly over the industry. In this case, a biotech attorney could help the farmer. The Biotech Patent Attorney can help use intellectual property law to defend the farmers’ interests. Therefore, the legal battles in this complex branch intellectual property law are best represented by biotech attorneys on both sides of the legal conflict.