California - Biotechnology and specifically the genetic engineering of seeds has become an extremely competitive industry. Environmental and population size issues have created the necessity for increased growing seasons and larger, more robust crops.
When traditional methods of producing these crops have been exhausted, farmers often turn to biotechnology to assist them. These biotechnology companies then spend millions to develop technology and almost as much to protect it from competitors. Well known seed engineering company Monsanto proved that it was no exception to this rule when it filed a lawsuit last week against Dupont and its Pioneer Hi-Bred International unit for what it considers an egregious infringement of its seed chipping patent. Filed Monday in Missouri district court, the lawsuit involves technology that identifies genetically modified seeds. Monsanto is asking for an injunction to prevent its competitor from infringing on its patented technology, as well as unspecified monetary damages.
Seed chipping is an important process used to automate samples of material from seeds while still allowing them to be planted later. This process allows for seeds to replicate faster. Monsanto introduced its seed chipping system in August 2007 and quickly patented the technology. Pioneer's "laser-assisted seed selection system" was released a year later. Dupont insists that the technology being used in its own seed-chipping technology was developed separate and apart from that being used by Monsanto. Furthermore, DuPont believes the allegations by Monsanto are without merit and vows to vigorously defend against its competitor's lawsuit.
Founded in 1901, Monsanto is the second largest producer of genetically engineered seeds and the leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). Located in Creve Coeur, Missouri, Monsanto first produced saccharin for the Coca-Cola Company. Further biotechnology inventions came soon after, and Monsanto quickly became a leader in its field. The Missouri based company has a history of taking its competitors to court to protect its patent portfolio and it hopes this latest lawsuit can be settled quickly and amicably. And despite having to resort to litigation, Monsanto has indicated that it is open to the possibility of licensing its technology to DuPont and Pioneer.