J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., 534 U.S. 124 (2001)

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124

OCTOBER TERM, 2001

Syllabus

J. E. M. AG SUPPLY, INC., dba FARM ADVANTAGE, INC., et al. v. PIONEER HI-BRED INTERNATIONAL, INC.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the federal circuit

No. 99-1996. Argued October 3, 2001—Decided December 10, 2001

Respondent Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (Pioneer), holds 17 utility patents issued under 35 U. S. C. 101 that cover the manufacture, use, sale, and offer for sale of its inbred and hybrid corn seed products. Pioneer sells its patented hybrid seeds under a limited label license that allows only the production of grain and/or forage, and prohibits using such seed for propagation or seed multiplication or for the production or development of a hybrid or different seed variety. Petitioner J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc., doing business as Farm Advantage, Inc., bought patented seeds from Pioneer in bags bearing the license agreement and then resold the bags. Pioneer filed this patent infringement suit against Farm Advantage and distributors and customers of Farm Advantage (collectively Farm Advantage or petitioners). Farm Advantage filed a patent invalidity counterclaim, arguing that sexually reproducing plants, such as Pioneer's corn plants, are not patentable subject matter within 101. Farm Advantage maintained that the Plant Patent Act of 1930 (PPA) and the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) set forth the exclusive statutory means for protecting plant life because these statutes are more specific than 101, and thus each carves out subject matter from 101 for special treatment. The District Court granted Pioneer summary judgment. Relying on this Court's broad construction of 101 in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U. S. 303, the District Court held that 101 clearly covers plant life. It also held that in enacting the PPA and the PVPA, Congress neither expressly nor implicitly removed plants from 101's subject matter. In particular, the District Court noted that Congress did not implicitly repeal 101 by passing the more specific PVPA because there was no irreconcilable conflict between the two statutes. The Federal Circuit affirmed.

Held: Newly developed plant breeds fall within the subject matter of

101, and neither the PPA nor the PVPA limits the scope of 101's coverage. Pp. 130-146.

(a) In approaching the question presented here, this Court is mindful that it has already recognized that 101's language is extremely broad and has concluded that living things are patentable under that provision,

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