Friday, September 4, 2009

Daily Story 142: Legal Recourse

"It's about theft, mister Morris." The man smiled, a warm and friendly look that lit up his whole face. He crossed his legs and leaned back in the faded recliner, sighing with contentment. "You see, we have proven without a doubt that you are guilty of stealing from the Queeny Corporation. They don't take kindly to that sort of thing."
Gilbert Morris mopped the sweat off of his forehead with a handkerchief and lowered himself carefully into an old rocking chair. "I don't know what you think I stole, but I can assure you I've stayed off of their property. All my farm equipment and supplies are bought and paid for legally."
The man sat forward, still grinning. "Mister Morris, I'm referring to your crops. A genetic test shows that they contain patented genes developed by the Queeny Corporation and therefore prove that you are infringing on their legal rights."

"You're joking. This is a joke, right? I don't even use the special pesticides and herbicides you people do, there would be no point in stealing your seeds. It's not like I don't have seeds of my own."
The man just shrugged, and leaned back again. "It's not really my job to worry about motivations, particularly when none are needed. We have the genetic tests, right there in black and white. I'm just here to advise you that we will be taking legal action."
Gilbert stared out at the waving fields of corn. With Queeny land backing right up to his it was hard to tell from some angles where one property stopped and another started.
"Listen, are you sure this isn't just from cross-pollination?"
"Mister Morris, I thought I made it clear that I don't really care? But yes, it's certainly possible that the stolen genes arrived on your property through cross-pollination. That doesn't change anything. Even if you wanted to argue that the pollen arrived without your knowledge it's still illegal to make use of our patented products without permission and you did exactly that when you planted the seeds from that pollination. There's already legal precedent for this, mister Morris."

Gilbert shuddered. There probably was legal precedent, he thought. This kind of thing happened more and more with big corporations. They were the ones to stomp around on his rights, to spread their modified genes everywhere... "Wait a second. Wait just one second. I... I'll sue you right back. I'll sue for contamination of my crops. I never asked for those genes, and I don't want them. I'll sue you to hell and back for contaminating my farm."
The man smiled and stood. "That's your right, mister Morris, but you wouldn't be suing us. You would be suing the neighboring farm."
Gilbert was confused. "The one with your name all over it?"
The man laughed, and Gilbert had to restrain himself to keep from punching him. "No, those are just advertisements. We require farms that use our products to advertise for us. It's independently owned, however, so they would be the people to sue. I'll warn you, though: they won't have a lot left when I'm done with them. We're suing them as well, for their part in the theft."

The man walked out onto the porch before turning back and holding out a piece of paper. "This is our offer," he said, "a goodwill gesture to give you the opportunity to put all this behind you without those pesky legal fees. I hear it can be awful hard to afford a legal team when there's an injunction against selling any of your corn."
Gilbert stepped out and took the paper. It was mostly legalese, but he understood enough to get the main goal. "You want my land?"
"Look at it this way, mister Morris; farming isn't really viable for individuals these days anyway. We're just making it official."
The man turned and walked to his shiny car. Gilbert wished he had chased the man off with his rifle, or spit on him, or torn the contract up. Instead he just asked a question. "Hey! How much land are you folks snatching up?"

There was a pause, as if he were trying to decide whether or not to answer at all. Finally, with the smile for once not plastered across his face, the man replied. "We're thinking of re-naming Kansas." With that, he started the car and drove away.