Asgrow Seed Co. v. Winterboer, 513 U.S. 179, 10 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

think that when the statute refers to sexually multiplying a variety "as a step in marketing," it means growing seed of the variety for the purpose of putting the crop up for sale.3 Under the exception set out in the first clause of 2543, then, a farmer is not eligible for the 2543 exemption if he plants and saves seeds for the purpose of selling the seeds that they produce for replanting.

Section 2543 next provides that, so long as a person is not violating either 2541(3) or (4),

"it shall not infringe any right hereunder for a person to save seed produced by him from seed obtained, or descended from seed obtained, by authority of the owner of the variety for seeding purposes and use such saved seed in the production of a crop for use on his farm, or for sale as provided in this section . . . ." (Emphasis added.)

Farmers generally grow crops to sell. A harvested soybean crop is typically removed from the farmer's premises in short order and taken to a grain elevator or processor. Sometimes, however, in the case of a plant such as the soybean, in which the crop is the seed, the farmer will have a portion of his crop cleaned and stored as seed for replanting his fields next season. We think it clear that this seed saved for re-planting is what the provision under discussion means by

3 The dissent asserts that the Federal Circuit's more demanding interpretation of "marketing" is supported by the ancient doctrine disfavoring restraints on alienation of property, see post, at 194-195. The wellspring of that doctrine, of course, is concern for property rights, and in the context of the PVPA it is the dissent's interpretation, rather than ours, which belittles that concern. The whole purpose of the statute is to create a valuable property in the product of botanical research by giving the developer the right to "exclude others from selling the variety, or offering it for sale, or reproducing it, or importing it, or exporting it," etc. 7 U. S. C. 2483. Applying the rule disfavoring restraints on alienation to interpretation of the PVPA is rather like applying the rule disfavoring restraints upon freedom of contract to interpretation of the Sherman Act.

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