Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) won a patent infringement trial in the U.S. District Court against DuPont Pioneer, formally Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. The trial had centered on DuPont’s unauthorized use of Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® technology.
In rendering its verdict, the federal jury found that DuPont (NYSE: DD) and DuPont Pioneer had willfully infringed Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® technology when it tried to patch the problems with DuPont’s own Optimum® GAT® technology that had failed in earlier development. The jury awarded damages of $1 billion to Monsanto based on DuPont’s willful infringement of its technology and the improper head start that DuPont obtained when it infringed Monsanto’s technology rights. The finding of willful infringement could lead to an increased award of damages in the case.
“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, Monsanto’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “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.”
“The materials uncovered from DuPont files during this case highlight that DuPont’s senior leaders were actively working to hide the fact their OGAT technology had failed and were using elaborate schemes to cover that up with the unlicensed use of our technology,” Snively added. “They knew the OGAT technology didn’t work for years, but opted to tell a much different story to their customers and to Wall Street. It is deeply disappointing that repeated requests to DuPont’s leadership and board to investigate their own internal actions were not addressed and corrected, which ultimately required the matter go to trial.”
Monsanto’s Roundup Ready technology was first commercially introduced to U.S. soybean farmers in 1996. Today, Monsanto broadly licenses Roundup Ready technology to alfalfa, corn, cotton, soybean, spring canola, sugar beet and winter canola farmers. Since its introduction, Roundup Ready technology has allowed farmers to better manage weeds, reduce the use of agricultural inputs, improve tillage practices, and save on fuel and time.
Monsanto originally filed suit against DuPont and DuPont Pioneer in May 2009. The lawsuit sought to prevent the unlicensed combination of Monsanto’s proprietary Roundup Ready herbicide tolerant technologies in soybeans and corn with DuPont’s problem plagued OGAT. DuPont had been offered a license at multiple times prior to and throughout the duration of the trial, but the Delaware-based company refused to accept the offer from Monsanto Company.
Today’s verdict represents the third time that court proceedings have determined that DuPont or DuPont Pioneer has violated a trait licensing agreement with Monsanto.