Monsanto Company v. Scruggs, et. al., 3-00-cv-00161 (MSND September 7, 2012, Order) (Mills, J.).
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
“Evolving” Laws at Time of Infringement Preclude Finding of Willful Infringement and Award of Enhanced Damages or Attorneys’ Fees
The court denied plaintiff's motion for enhanced damages and attorneys' fees even though the jury had found that defendant willfully infringed plaintiff's seed patent. "[T]here are unique factors present in this and similar 'seed saving' cases which are not fully reflected in the [Read Corp. v. Portec, Inc., 970 F.2d 816 (Fed. Cir. 1992)] factors. The court will endeavor to discuss some of those factors now. First and foremost, the court finds. . . that the legal and historical context in which the infringements in this case arose renders them far less egregious than if the same infringements were to occur today. . . . At the time he committed the infringement in this case, it is not unreasonable that [defendant] would have thought that the still-evolving laws regarding seed saving practices could be interpreted in a manner favorable to him or that [plaintiff] might be pressured to enforce those laws in a less uncompromising manner. . . . The court can also not ignore the extremely heavy personal toll which this litigation has taken on [defendant]. . . . [He] has already paid an enormous financial and personal toll for the mistakes which he has made, and the court finds the argument that he has not already been 'taught a lesson' to be highly suspect."