However, National Seeds Association of India (NSAI) President M Prabhakar Rao said the matter was not decided “either on facts or on law without a trial" and was referred back to a single bench and the situation has come to square one.
Deciding the appeal of US-based Monsanto, the apex court restored the order of the single judge bench of the high court which was not seized of the issue of patent but had dealt with the issue of trademark infringement claimed by Monsanto over the BT cotton seeds by Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd.
German chemical and pharma major Bayer, which has now acquired Monsanto globally, welcomed the judgement and said it will give a detailed commented after studying the SC order.
Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSSI) Chairman M Ramasami said the SC order validates that patents are integral to innovation and reinforces faith in the Indian judiciary and the Indian patent system.
“While we await the detailed order for complete understanding, this seems to be a pro-farmer and pro-technology ruling that will have a long-term and positive impact on Indian agriculture," he said in a statement.
Technology developers will now be encouraged to invest more money into bringing new technologies to the market, he said.
“By creating a positive environment for agri R&D, the court has underlined the importance of protecting innovators and promoting legitimate access to technology."Welcoming the order, Alliance for Agri Innovation Executive Director Shivendra Bajaj said it’s a landmark judgement in favour of Monsanto’s patents on Bt Cotton.
The court has recognised that products of biotechnological processes such as man-made DNA constructs are patentable in India.
“We believe this will bring certainty in the policy environment. IPR, whether global or Indian, needs protection and this verdict is a shot-in-the-arm to India’s agri-biotech industry that has been looking to improve Indian cotton farmers competitiveness," he said.
Very importantly, this decision also safeguards the interest of public and private investments in agricultural R&D and will prove immensely beneficial in providing continuous innovations across sectors, not just limited to agriculture, he added.
National Seeds Association of India President M Prabhakar Rao said, “The SC pronounced the order. They chose not to decide either on facts or on law without a trial and referred the matter back to single judge.""The double bench order is set aside by the SC as it decided on point of law with summary trail. It’s an order which takes the issue back to square one. Though we didn’t win as expected, we did not lose either," he added.
Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL), a joint venture firm of Monsanto, has sub-licensed Bt cotton seed technology to various domestic seed companies since 2002.
However, eight licensees including Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL) refused to honour their commitments to pay MMBL over ₹ 450 crore after collecting these amounts from cotton farmers in kharif 2015.
Amid dispute between the two companies, the government started fixing the royalty fee or trait value to be paid by domestic seed firms to MMBL. The royalty fee was fixed at ₹ 49 per packet for the 2016-17 season and later was brought down to ₹ 39 per packet for the 2017-18 season.