Another potential problem could arise if the holder of the expired patent develops and markets a new product that could potentially compete with the product for which the patent has expired (the so-called generic product).

The patent expiration of the first generation of RR soybean trait in 2014 will be the first time that a major biotech trait will become potentially subject to competition with generic traits. That could result in lower prices and more choices for farmers. That will most likely be the case if Monsanto sticks to its pledges to maintain and extend current licensing agreements and regulatory approval for overseas markets.

Certainly, Monsanto has legal options it can utilize to extend its existing monopoly and prevent competition among generic seed products. It appears at the present time that Monsanto does not plan to utilize those options to the extent of diminishing competition in the seed market. But, this entire matter is one that is developing.

A complete brief on this topic is posted on the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation website as an April 8, 2011 –  Expiration of Biotech Crop Patents – Issues for Growers. This article looks at the laws governing seed sales and the current landscape.

(Roger McEowen is the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation director and an agricultural law professor. He can be reached at mceowen@iastate.edu or 515-294-4076.)