$1 billion award to Monsanto against DuPont

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A federal court jury found that DuPont and DuPont Pioneer infringed on Monsanto Company’s patented Roundup Ready seed technology as it developed and introduced its DuPont Optimum GAT seed technology. The U.S. District Court jury awarded damages of $1 billion to Monsanto.

In its announcement of the jury findings late Wednesday, Monsanto emphasized the verdict matched their contention all along that “DuPont Pioneer had willfully infringed Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready technology when it tried to patch the problems with DuPont’s own Optimum GAT (OGAT) technology that had failed in earlier development.”

Monsanto phased the large award amount of $1 billion accessed against DuPont as because of willful infringement of its technology and because it gave DuPont an “improper head start.”  The $1 billion award might not be the final amount owed by DuPont, according to Monsanto. “The finding of willful infringement could lead to an increased award of damages in the case,” claimed Monsanto.

"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."

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,” said DuPont Senior Vice President and General Counsel Thomas L. Sager.

Several aspects of Monsanto’s misconduct involving this patent, which were not tried in this case, will be presented to a different jury as part of DuPont’s antitrust and patent misuse case against Monsanto in September 2013, noted Sager.

Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology was first commercially introduced in 1996 in soybean seed. It was the first genetically modified seed that allowed a non-selective herbicide, Roundup, to be applied over an emerged crop without injury to the crop. 

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 GAT.  Monsanto reported it offered a licensing agreement to DuPont at multiple times prior to and throughout the duration of the trial, but the Delaware-based company refused to accept any of the offers.

UPDATE: DuPont has decided to appeal the $1 billion verdict. Read more here.


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