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Monsanto, DuPont continue to battle over anti-trust, patent claims

Agriculture.com Staff 06/17/2009 @ 11:26am

The gloves continue to come off in the battle between Monsanto and DuPont in lawsuits concerning the Optimum GAT product marketed by DuPont and its seed company, Pioneer Hi-Bred.

Yesterday, Monsanto attorneys stated DuPont's response to Monsanto's patent infringement lawsuit filed last month is a "smokescreen" for what it terms "DuPont's failed Optimum GAT product." Monsanto sued DuPont on May 4 for unauthorized use of the Roundup Ready herbicide tolerant product.

Monsanto officials said in a press release that after touting Optimum GAT as a stand-alone, effective competitor of Roundup Ready, DuPont admitted in January 2009 that farmers could not use Optimum GAT alone because it presented an "unacceptable risk" to growers, and needed Monsanto's Roundup Ready to make it work.

"Rather than tell the truth about its failed product, DuPont pirated Monsanto's technology," said Scott Partridge, Monsanto's Deputy General Counsel, in a press release. "This is the real issue in the case."

"Monsanto competes with true innovation and provides new solutions for the agronomic problems facing farmers," Partridge added. "DuPont wants to compete by hurling false accusations and using the innovations of others to cover up its own failed technologies. DuPont's claim is baseless and a way of diverting attention from the fact that it was forced to renege on its vision of a new $200 million stand-alone competitor to Roundup Ready. DuPont is trying to make up for its commercial and scientific failures by misusing Monsanto technology, and the Court will now decide on the issue."

This morning, DuPont filed an answer and counterclaims to Monsanto's lawsuit that DuPont says seeks to block farmers' access to innovative new soybean lines from DuPont's Pioneer seed company. These soybeans would contain Pioneer's proprietary Optimum GAT trait and -- through Monsanto's royalty-bearing license agreement -- the Roundup Ready trait.

In its federal court filing today, DuPont said it affirmed that combining, or "stacking," of Optimum GAT and Roundup Ready technologies is clearly within its rights under the license agreement with Monsanto. DuPont also said that patents relating to Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans are invalid and, therefore, are not infringed when Optimum GAT and Roundup Ready traits are "stacked" in soybeans. DuPont also is seeking what it says is broad relief under anti-trust laws that would end Monsanto's multifaceted, anti-competitive scheme to unlawfully restrict competition.

"We believe we have every right through our existing Monsanto license agreement to 'stack' our Optimum GAT trait with Pioneer soybean genetics already containing a Roundup Ready trait," said DuPont Group Vice President James C. Borel in a press release. "We will vigorously defend our rights to bring valuable new technologies to the market.

"Monsanto's lawsuit is another tactic used to restrict the availability of competitive products," Borel added. "Farmers want and deserve diverse technology options that can best satisfy their specific needs to help meet the increasing global demands for agriculture. Our proprietary Optimum GAT trait combined with the Roundup Ready trait in elite Pioneer soybean genetics would be superior to any other product on the market -- better yields and broader, more flexible weed control options. The seed industry, U.S. growers, and, ultimately, consumers are best served when seed companies can assemble the best combinations of traits and germplasm for their customers -- without the anti-competitive restrictions imposed by Monsanto."

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