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Context of 'September 10, 2001: US Army Applies for Patent for Rifle-Launched Grenade for Crowd Control'

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The US Patent office issues its third patent (US Patent No 5,977,441) to the US Department of Agriculture and cotton seed producer Delta & Pine Land for genetic seed sterilization, commonly known as terminator technology. The patent is for innovations related to two earlier patents (see March 3, 1998) issued in March 1998 and July 1999 (see July 20, 1999). [USPTO Patent Database, 11/2/1999]

Entity Tags: Delta & Pine Land Company, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Seeds

It is learned that the United States is developing weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare. For example, the CIA is “building and testing a cluster munition, modeled on a Soviet bioweapon, to spread biological agents.” [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] And in the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency is planning to genetically engineer a Soviet strain of Bacillus anthracis (the causative agent of anthrax) that is thought to be antibiotic-resistant. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003] Other biological and chemical weapons projects include the development of a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) as well as non-lethal gases designed to knock people out such as the hallucinogenic BZ gas and fentanyl. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] Fentanyl was the gas used in October 2002 by Russian Special Forces against the Chechen rebels who were holding civilians hostage in a theatre. In that incident, the gas was responsible for killing most of the 120 people who died during the rescue operation. [Scotsman, 10/30/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003] The US claims that these weapons are for defensive and “law-enforcement” purposes only. For instance, calmative agents might be used by US troops for defensive purposes when confronting hostile crowds, fighting in cave systems, or taking prisoners. [Guardian, 10/29/2002; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1/2003; Independent, 2/16/2003]

Timeline Tags: US Military

The US Army applies for a patent on a new rifle-launched gas grenade which is purportedly meant for non-lethal crowd control. It is designed to release aerosols “selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes.” [United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2/25/2003; Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003] The patent is approved in February (see February 25, 2002) .

Timeline Tags: US Military

A US Army patent for a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) is approved by the US Patent office. [United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2/25/2003; Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003]

Timeline Tags: US Military

The US National Research Council issues a report that notes: “Chemical non-lethal weapons programs that deliver chemical contaminants to a crowd—other than riot control agents—would likely fail in meeting the Hague requirement for ‘distinction’ as the delivery method is not isolated and/or cannot be controlled well enough to prevent the chemical contaminants from affecting people who are not related to the intended military target. It is unlikely that calmatives in their current form will be lawful under international law, when used in warfighting situations.” [National Research Council, 2003; Asia Times, 4/1/2003]

Entity Tags: National Research Council (NRC)

Timeline Tags: US Military

When the United States’ patent on a rifle-launched gas grenade (see September 10, 2001) is publicized, it creates a controversy because the development of any “delivery system for use as a weapon” that contains “biological agents” is a violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the US Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act of 1989 which prohibit developing devices for delivering biological weapons agents. Miguel Morales, the public affairs officer for the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Aberdeen, Md., who oversaw development of the grenade, claims that the inventors and patent attorney had wrongly described the invention when they said it could release chemical and biological agents. “The attorney and the inventors were simply trying to claim their invention as broadly as legally entitled,” Morales claims, adding, “It is clear now, in hindsight, that inserting the term chemical or biological ‘agents’ was unfortunate.… There was never any intent to use this for chemical or biological warfare agents.” [Global Security Newswire, 5/28/2003; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Miguel Morales

Timeline Tags: US Military

Canada’s Supreme Court hears the case of Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto. Schmeiser is appealing a lower court’s decision that he infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted canola seed in 1998 that he “knew, or ought to have known” was from glyphosate-resistant plants. Intervening on Schmeiser’s behalf are a consortium of six non-government organizations (Council of Canadians; Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration; Sierra Club; National Farmers Union; Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology; and the International Center for Technology Assessment) and the Ontario attorney general. The Ontario government is backing Schmeiser because it fears that a decision upholding the lower court’s ruling would encourage more gene patents and increase healthcare costs. Monsanto’s lawyers also presenting arguments before the court. In addition to defending the lower courts’ ruling that Schmeiser infringed on the company’s patent, the lawyers are cross-appealing the decision that the farmer’s profits in 1998 (awarded to Monsanto) only amounted to $19,832 CAD. Monsanto has calculated Schmeiser’s profit to be $105,000 CAD. Monsanto’s interveners include the Canola Council of Canada, BIOTECanada, and the Canadian Seed Trade Association. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
Schmeiser's Arguments -
bullet Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, challenges the validity of Monsanto’s patent arguing that the patent contradicts the Harvard College v. Canada Supreme Court decision that higher-life forms cannot be patented. He explains that in claiming exclusive rights to glyphosate-resistant plant genes and cells, Monsanto is in effect claiming patentholder rights to any plants and seeds containing those genes and cells, which as the Supreme Court has already decided, is not legal. He argues that Monsanto should have instead chosen to protect its intellectual property rights under the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, which was designed to protect the rights of seed developers. [Associated Press, 1/20/2004; BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski also argues that extending Monsanto’s patentholder rights to second-generation roundup-resistant seeds makes it illegal for farmer’s to save and share seeds—the 12 thousand year old practice responsible for creating domesticated crops. [Vancouver Sun, 1/20/2004]
bullet Even if the patent is ruled valid, according to Zakreski, Monsanto implicitly waived its patentholder rights when it failed to control the spread of its invention after releasing it unconfined into the environment. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski also argues that even if the court upholds the validity of Monsanto’s patent, Schmeiser did not violate the patent, because he never exploited its utility—the resistance it provides against glyphosate. The only way to use the patent, he says, is to spray Monsanto Roundup Ready Canola with Roundup, which Schmeiser did not do. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski notes an inherent contradiction in the claim that Monsanto is entitled to all profits resulting from the sale of seed containing the patented gene. Zakreski offers the hypothetical example of a farmer whose canola is infested with two different genes, each patented by a different company. Would each of the patentholders be entitled to the full profit? Would the farmer be required to pay each of them 100 percent, in effect being forced to pay out twice the profit from his crop? [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
Monsanto's argument -
bullet Monsanto’s lawyers reject Schmeiser’s position that a farmer’s right to save seed overrides the company’s patent rights. In order for them to recover research and development costs they must charge farmers annually for use of the seed containing their patented gene, they argue. [Vancouver Sun, 1/20/2004; Associated Press, 1/20/2004]
bullet The company’s lawyers also insist that the Harvard College v. Canada decision does not apply to this case. Its patent is not on the entire plant, but rather just one of the plant’s ingredients. He compares the company’s gene to a special patented steel that is used for an automobile where the inventor’s rights extend only to the steel, not the entire car. The judges interrupt Monsanto’s presentation on several occasions challenging the lawyer’s steel analogy and asking Monsanto’s lawyers where Monsanto’s patent rights would end since plants have the ability to reproduce themselves and hence the inventions contained within them.
bullet Lawyers for Monsanto’s interveners said that invalidating the company’s patent would harm Canada’s economy and undermine its patent system. “Patents create a climate that favors new research,” argues A. David Morrow, a lawyer for the Canadian Seed Trade Association. [Associated Press, 1/20/2004]
bullet Biotech Canada’s lawyer, Anthony Creber, similarly states, “I’m nervous that if you don’t give (patent protection) for seeds and cells, you will have a hollow Patent Act with severe economic consequences.” [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 1/21/2004]
bullet Mona Brown, a lawyer with the Canadian Canola Growers Association, tells the judges that the “patent makes us more profitable and better farmers.” [Associated Press, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: International Center for Technology Assessment, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, National Farmers Union, Canola Council of Canada, BIOTECanada, Canadian Seed Trade Association, Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, Sierra Club, Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Council of Canadians

Timeline Tags: Seeds

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