The Supreme Court Is About to Shape the Future of Innovation

Bowman v. Monsanto is about patents, but particularly about cutting-edge technologies and products that are by nature easy to copy. Our patent law principles were intended to foster innovation by giving innovators the temporary right to prevent others from copying their inventions. With the rise of biotechnology and other advances, many patented technologies are based on biological or other materials that are by nature replicable, making illicit copying as tempting as it is easy. Do inventors retain the rights to temporary exclusivity for those easy-to-make copies as well? Every invention and new creative work will ultimately enter into the public domain, where it will become available to all, to use without restriction. Indeed, Monsanto’s last patent on the soybeans Bowman used will expire next year. But in the meantime innovators, whether they are in a scientific laboratory or a recording studio, must count on being able to recoup their risky investments without the threat of illegal copies.