Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, has won a $1 billion victory over DuPont, its archrival, in a lawsuit concerning patents in the agricultural seed market. The victory, which dealt with genetically modified seeds that allow crops to tolerate weed killer, should have little immediate impact in that lucrative marketplace, according to reports. But it underscores Monsanto’s dominance over popular seed technology and could slow DuPont’s advancement, analysts said. Apparently, the old products are being replaced with new technology. If that’s true the verdict may not affect either company in the short term. The jury, after a three-week trial in St. Louis, took less than an hour to find in favor of Monsanto, which claimed in the suit that DuPont and its agricultural crop subsidiary DuPont Pioneer Hi-bred International, violated a 2002 licensing agreement.
That agreement gave DuPont the right to use Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready trait, a wildly popular technology. But it said DuPont did not have the right to stack that with other traits. Monsanto said DuPont included the licensed Roundup Ready trait in combination with its own glyphosate-resistant genetic trait.
The U.S. District Court in St. Louis ruled in 2010 that the Roundup Ready license agreements between DuPont and Monsanto contain an unwritten “implied” term that prohibited DuPont from stacking its Optimum GAT trait with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait in soybeans or corn. DuPont claims that Monsanto acted fraudulently in obtaining the patent and thus rendered it invalid.
DuPont says it will appeal the verdict. Besides appealing this verdict, DuPont is pursuing a separate patent misuse case and antitrust claims against Monsanto. A trial on those issues is set for September 2013. Monsanto maintained in the current case that DuPont willfully violated its patent because its own technology was failing. Monsanto introduced its Roundup Ready technology in 1996 in soybeans. The Roundup Ready trait makes crops tolerate sprayings of Roundup, or glyphosate-based, herbicide. Monsanto licenses Roundup Ready technology for corn, alfalfa, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Monsanto filed suit against DuPont and Pioneer in May 2009 alleging the unlicensed use of the trait.
Both companies hold strong positions in the U.S. seed industry and have been racing each other and other competitors to develop improved crops through genetic modifications and other means. Monsanto’s patent on Roundup Ready soybeans expires in 2014 and both Monsanto and DuPont have fresh versions of the technology rolling out. Monsanto’s Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans are going up against Pioneer Y Series soybeans, which are built upon the original Roundup Ready technology. The case is in Re: Monsanto Co vs E.I. Dupont De Nemours, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, No. 09-00686.
Source: Insurance Journal
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