Jury awards Monsanto $1 billion in patent case

by Eric Schroeder
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ST. LOUIS — A jury in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis on July 31 awarded St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. $1 billion in a patent-infringement trial against rival DuPont Pioneer, a wholly-owned subsidiary of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., Wilmington, Del.

The trial centered on whether DuPont infringed on Monsanto’s patent for developing bioengineered soybean seeds that are able to withstand the weed killer Roundup. In the jury’s opinion, DuPont willfully violated Monsanto’s patent on its so-called Roundup Ready technology.

“Importantly, this verdict highlights that all companies that make early and substantial investments in developing cutting edge technology will have their intellectual property rights upheld and fairly valued,” said David Snively, executive vice-president and general counsel for Monsanto. “This verdict also underscores that DuPont’s unauthorized use of the Roundup Ready technology was both deliberate and aimed at rescuing its own failed technology.”

DuPont said it plans to appeal the verdict and expects it to be overturned.

“DuPont believes that the evidence presented during the trial demonstrated clearly that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean patent is invalid and unenforceable and that Monsanto intentionally deceived the United States Patent and Trademark Office on several occasions as it sought patent protection,” said Thomas L. Sager, senior vice-president and general counsel at DuPont. “Further, DuPont believes that the damages awarded of $1 billion are unjustified, particularly considering that Pioneer has never sold a single Optimum GAT seed and has no plans to do so in the future. DuPont’s license to sell Roundup Ready soybeans remains in place and is not impacted by this verdict.”

When plans for the release of Optimum GAT were first announced several years ago, it was described by DuPont as a new herbicide resistance technology that would allow more flexible use of glyphosate and selected ALS herbicides without risk of crop injury. The company said it was working to develop the technology in corn, soybeans and other crops and to obtain necessary approvals from government regulatory agencies, something that never materialized.

DuPont said it has an antitrust and patent misuse case pending against Monsanto in September 2013.

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