Last year, Monsanto sued Iowa-based Pioneer and its parent company DuPont in federal court alleging among other things, patent infringement and breach of contract. In the lawsuit, Monsanto alleges Pioneer developed glyphosate (Roundup)-tolerant genetics called Optimum GAT. Monsanto asserts Pioneer abandoned trying to market seeds containing only Optimum GAT and began combining Optimum GAT to Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready seeds in a process called “stacking.”
According to The AMLaw Litigation Daily, over the past year the dispute grew nasty, with both sides taking the case to the press. Mosanto accused DuPont of unlawfully taking Monsanto’s technology and DuPont accused Monsanto of monopolizing the market and attempting to intimidate customers.
On January 15, 2010, St Louis Judge E. Richard Webber granted Monsanto partial summary judgment, ruling the licenses to Pioneer did not allow Pioneer to “stack” Optimum GAT on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready product. Not deterred, DuPont has vowed to vigorously pursue its antitrust, license and patent fraud claims still pending in the case.
As noted in the Des Moines Register, at least one analyst has argued the lawsuit heightened the perception that Pioneer has fallen behind Monsanto in the development of biotech traits for seeds. Notwithstanding, DuPont just entered into a deal with BASF to settle their lawsuits with one another and cross-license various patents covering herbicide-tolerant technology. On the Monsanto side, The Justice Department has formally requested information from Monsanto regarding anticompetitive practices in the herbicide-tolerant soybean seed market. The main patent covering the Roundup Ready technology is set to expire 2014. Monsanto has stated publicly it will not block competitors from bringing Roundup Ready generic equivalents to the market.