In this most recent court ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON)’s patents enable it to prevent farmers from planting later generations of its seeds without first paying for those seeds. This is real break from the historical norm where in crops that were planted left the farmer with the ability to replicate them by saving and replanting the seeds the crops produced. Now, if those crops originated from Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) seeds this is no longer the case as farmers must pay Monsanto for those seeds.
While this ruling is minor in terms of the $84,000 judgment Monsanto will receive from the farmer, what it does is protect the company’s cash flows from its growing portfolio of genetically engineered seeds. That patent protection is important – earlier this year, the company struck a deal with DuPont Fabros Technology, Inc. (NYSE:DFT) in which the chemical manufacturer will pay it $1.75 billion in a licensing deal. In addition, the two companies would drop the standing law suits held against each other. Instead of competing they will be collaborating, with DuPont Fabros Technology, Inc. (NYSE:DFT) gaining access to key patents in the Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) portfolio.
It’s in that deal with DuPont Fabros Technology, Inc. (NYSE:DFT) as well as in its recurring seeds business that is the real driver behind these lawsuits. According to the Center for Food Safety, Monsanto has brought over 140 patent infringement suits against over 400 farmers and more than 50 small businesses. Total winnings? About $23 million which is a drop in the bucket for the company.
What it’s after is protecting its intellectual property, which drives profits. These court rulings help it maintain control over the commercial seed world which, when combined with DuPont Fabros Technology, Inc. (NYSE:DFT) and Syngenta AG (ADR) (NYSE:SYT), is 53% according to the CFS. Further, when you consider that around 93% of soybeans and north of 85% of corn in the United States comes from genetically modified seeds, you can understand just how vast the market is for its products. For Monsanto it represents about $2 billion in free cash flow each year.
I can understand that many investors want nothing to do with Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON). It’s most recent court battle was against an elderly farmer who did what farmers traditionally did, used seeds from last year’s harvest to plant this year’s crops.