Monsanto wants triple damages against Scruggses

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

GREENVILLE – Agriculture giant Monsanto wants three times damages a 2010 federal jury agreed it was owed by a Tupelo farm supply company and others in a seed patent infringement case.
Thursday, Monsanto filed its reasons under seal in the U.S. District Court in Greenville.
Last Aug. 20, a jury began to hear weeks of testimony in the lawsuit by Monsanto against Mitchell Scruggs, Eddie Scruggs and five of their farm enterprises.
The 10-year-old lawsuit accused them of illegally re-using hybridized seeds and planting them in 2000.
On Sept. 21, the jury awarded Monsanto $8.9 million in damages – $2.6 million for planting the seeds and $6.3 million for re-selling the seeds.
Monsanto, which makes the widely used herbicide Roundup, offered a patented gene in 1996 that could be inserted into crop seeds to protect the growing plant from the effects of glyphosate-based herbicides, the generic form of Roundup.
Using such Roundup Ready seed allows farmers to spray their fields with the herbicide, eradicating the weeds but not the crop. The result is cleaner fields with less use of chemicals, proponents say.
Monsanto also patented a gene that makes its own natural pesticide in cotton, making the plants resistant to bugs that cause significant crop damage.
In order to recoup its research costs, Monsanto requires seed retailers to collect a technology fee on each bag of the seed they sell. A portion goes to Monsanto as royalty. How much is proprietary information, Monsanto said.
Farmers are required to sign a release saying they will not save the seed from one season to another or give it to others.
After the Greenville trial, Scruggs’ attorneys asked Judge W. Allen Pepper to reconsider the judgment or grant them a new trial, saying the damage award was excessively large.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.