Justia Agriculture Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Intellectual Property
Inguran, LLC v. ABS Global, Inc.
Using a patent directed to a method for sorting sperm cells according to specific DNA characteristics to preselect the gender of a domestic animal’s offspring, STGenetics, provided bull semen-processing services to ABS, which sells semen drawn from its own bulls, packaged in small tubes for use in artificial insemination.In 2014, ABS filed an antitrust lawsuit, alleging that ST was maintaining monopoly power for sexed semen processing. ST brought counterclaims for trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and patent infringement. ABS stipulated to direct infringement of three claims. A jury awarded ST $750,000 for past infringement and a royalty on future sales of sexed semen tubes sold by ABS. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the validity findings and issued a remand that did not concern the ongoing royalty.ST filed another infringement suit, which was consolidated with the remand proceedings, then learned that ABS had begun selling and licensing ST’s system to third parties. ST filed a third suit, asserting induced infringement (35 U.S.C. 271(b)). The district court dismissed the action, citing claim preclusion.The Federal Circuit reversed. An induced patent infringement claim brought at the time of the first trial would have been based on speculation; the parties stipulated to direct infringement and the question of inducement was not before the jury. The scope of ABS’s direct infringement allegations cannot reasonably be expanded to cover actions of third-party licensees using the technology to make their own tubes. View "Inguran, LLC v. ABS Global, Inc." on Justia Law
BASF Plant Science, LP v. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
CSIRO, a research arm of the Australian government, owns six U.S. patents, concerning the engineering of plants, particularly canola, to produce specified oils not native to the plants. After the resolution of jurisdiction and venue issues in an infringement case against BASF and Cargill, the case proceeded to trial on eight claims of the six patents. The parties stipulated to infringement of five patents; the jury found infringement of the sixth. The jury rejected invalidity challenges, including the challenge that the asserted patent claims lacked adequate written-description support. The jury found that BASF co-owned one patent (precluding infringement of that patent) but not the others. The district court ruled that the evidence would not support a finding of willfulness, denied a conduct-stopping injunction, and granted an ongoing royalty on all five patents found infringed.The Federal Circuit affirmed that Eastern District of Virginia venue was proper and affirmed the verdict rejecting the written-description challenge to the claims that are limited to canola plants but reversed as to the broader genus claims. The court agreed that five patents were not co-owned by BASF but reversed the contrary verdict as to the sixth, so that infringement of all valid claims of the six patents is now settled. The court upheld the district court’s refusal to submit willfulness to the jury and its decision on an evidentiary issue concerning past damages but remanded for reconsideration of the remedy. View "BASF Plant Science, LP v. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation" on Justia Law
ABS Global, Inc. v. Inguran, LLC
Until recently, Sexing Tech held a monopoly on the market for sexed cattle semen in the United States. Sperm‐sorting technology separates bull semen into X‐chromosome bearing and Y‐chromosome bearing sperm cells; the resulting “sexed semen” is used to inseminate cows artificially so that dairy farmers can breed only milk‐producing cows. ABS, a bull‐stud operation, sued, alleging that Sexing Tech had unlawfully monopolized the domestic sexed‐semen market in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act by using its market power to impose coercive contract terms. ABS sought a declaratory judgment proclaiming those contracts invalid, to permit its own entry into that market. Sexing Tech counterclaimed that ABS infringed its patents and breached the contract by misappropriating trade secrets in developing ABS’s competing technology. Three claims went to trial: ABS’s antitrust claim and Sexing Tech’s patent infringement and breach of contract counterclaims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court, holding that ABS violated a confidentiality agreement it had with Sexing Tech and that Sexing Tech’s patent was not invalid on obviousness grounds. The jury’s assessments of two of the three patent claims still at issue cannot be reconciled under the rules governing dependent claims and enablement, and so a new trial is necessary on them. View "ABS Global, Inc. v. Inguran, LLC" on Justia Law
XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, L.C.
XY’s patents relate to the sorting of X- and Y-chromosome-bearing sperm cells, for selective breeding purposes. Trans Ova provides services related to embryo transfer and in-vitro fertilization for cattle. XY and Trans Ova entered into a five-year licensing agreement in 2004 under which Trans Ova was authorized to use XY’s technology, subject to automatic renewal unless Trans Ova was in material breach. In 2007, Inguran acquired XY and sent a letter purporting to terminate the Agreement because of alleged breaches. For several years, the parties negotiated but failed to resolve their disputes. Trans Ova continued to make royalty payments to XY, which were declined. XY alleges that it became aware of further breaches, including underpayment of royalties and development of improvements to XY’s technology without disclosure of such improvements to XY. XY sued for patent infringement and breach of contract. Trans Ova counterclaimed, alleging patent invalidity, breach of contract, and antitrust violations. The district court granted XY summary judgment on the antitrust counterclaims. A jury found breaches of contract by both parties; that Trans Ova failed to prove that the asserted patent claims were invalid and willfully infringed the asserted claims; and XY was entitled to patent infringement damages. The court denied all of Trans Ova’s requested relief and granted XY an ongoing royalty. The Federal Circuit affirmed except the ongoing royalty rate, which it remanded for recalculation. View "XY, LLC v. Trans Ova Genetics, L.C." on Justia Law
Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Bunge North America, Inc.
Syngenta, producer of a genetically-modified corn seed, filed suit against Bunge, an agricultural produce storage and transport company, alleging breach of an obligation under the United States Warehouse Act (USWA), 7 U.S.C. 241-256; breach of a duty to third party beneficiaries of a licensing agreement between Bunge and the federal government; and false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. The court concluded that the text of the USWA and the structure of the Act do not implicitly authorize a private cause of action for violations of a warehouse operator's fair treatment obligations; Syngenta is not a third-party beneficiary of the License Agreement and the district court did not err in dismissing this claim on the pleadings; and the court found it was necessary to remand the Lanham Act claim, in light of Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., for the district court to determine in the first instance whether Syngenta has standing to bring the claim under the zone-of-interests test and proximate causality requirements. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the USWA and third-party beneficiary claims, and vacated the grant of summary judgment to Bunge on the Lanham Act claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Bunge North America, Inc." on Justia Law
Trebro Mfg., Inc. v. Firefly Equip., LLC
Trebro’s patents involve sod harvesters: vehicles with knives that cut sod pieces from the ground, conveyor belts to transport the pieces, and mechanisms to stack them on a pallet. FireFly’s accused product is the ProSlab 150. Trebro also sells sod harvesters, including the SC2010 Slab. FireFly did not contest priority on the claims. While the preliminary injunction motion was pending, FireFly requested ex parte reexamination of thepatent, based primarily on two patents invented by the same individuals. After ordering reexamination, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office terminated the proceeding because neither of the patents qualified as prior art because they were not considered invented] by “others’ under 35 U.S.C. 102(a) or (e) and because each was published within the one year grace period. The district court denied a preliminary injunction. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded, noting a record that strongly suggests a likelihood of success on the merits and a likelihood of irreparable harm. The court reasoned that the nature of the market is such that money damages would likely be inadequate and that the fact that Trebro does not presently practice the patent does not detract from its likely irreparable harm. View "Trebro Mfg., Inc. v. Firefly Equip., LLC" on Justia Law
Bayer CropScience AG v. Dow AgroSciences, LLC
Bayer’s patent concerns genetically modifying plants to confer resistance to a common herbicide (2,4-D) by inserting a particular DNA segment into plant cells, which reproduce to create new cells that contain that gene. Those cells produce an enzyme that catalyzes a biochemical reaction with 2,4-D in which the herbicide is broken down into something harmless to the plant. A plant with the gene survives 2,4-D application while surrounding weeds do not. At the time of the patent application, the inventors had sequenced one gene coding for one enzyme, using a test supposedly capable of finding other, similar genes. In writing the application, they claimed a broad category based on the function of the particular enzyme, defining the category by using a term with established scientific meaning. Years before the patent issued, experiments showed that the term did not apply to the particular enzyme whose gene was sequenced, but Bayer did not change its claim language. When Bayer sued Dow for infringement, Bayer recognized that the term’s established scientific meaning, did not cover the accused product, which was, itself, different from the enzyme whose gene Bayer’s inventors had sequenced. Bayer argued for broad functional claim construction. The district court entered summary judgment of noninfringement, citing particularly the great breadth of the asserted functional construction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Bayer CropScience AG v. Dow AgroSciences, LLC" on Justia Law
In re Beineke
Whoever “invents or discovers and asexually re-produces any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state, may obtain a patent therefor,” 35 U.S.C. 161. In 1980, Beineke noticed two white oak trees with superior genetic traits, such as excellent timber quality and strong central stem tendency. The trees were in the yard of another and about 105-118 years old. Beineke planted acorns from each. An examiner rejected patent applications because Beineke did not provide evidence that the trees were in a cultivated state. The Board affirmed, finding that the land on which the trees grew had existed as a wooded pasture until a house was constructed around 1930, after the trees began growing; there was no evidence that human activity contributed to the creation of the trees. The Federal Circuit affirmed, without addressing cultivation. Congress recognized that the relevant distinction was not between living and inanimate things, but between products of nature, whether living or not, and human-made inventions.” The trees were not “newly found seedlings,” and do not fall within the broadened protection of the 1954 amendments. View "In re Beineke" on Justia Law
In re Viterra
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed an examining attorney's refusal to register the trademark XCEED, in standard character form, for agricultural seed, citing the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d). A previously-registered word and design mark for agricultural seeds consisted of the characters X-Seed in stylized form. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding substantial evidence that the XCEED mark would likely cause confusion with the X-Seed mark. View "In re Viterra" on Justia Law
Pioneer Hi-Bred Int’l, Inc. v. Monsanto Tech., LLC
The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences declared an interference between the claims of a patent belonging to Pioneer and those of a pending application owned by Monsanto. The claims concern transgenic corn. After the Board concluded that Monsanto was not time-barred under 35 U.S.C. 135(b)(1) and that its claims were entitled to seniority, Pioneer stipulated to judgment against it and the Board canceled Pioneer's claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Pioneer Hi-Bred Int'l, Inc. v. Monsanto Tech., LLC" on Justia Law