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Paying for seed lawsuits

Dekalb, a subsidiary of Monsanto, appears to be facing numerous challenges in court. A federal court jury found that Dekalb had fraudulently induced Rhone-Poulenc (R-P) to license its patented glyphosate-tolerance gene used in Roundup Ready (RR) corn; misappropriated trade secrets when it transferred R-P's technology to Monsanto and commercialized RR corn; and infringed on R-P's genetic technology patent. The jury decided that Dekalb must pay at least 65 million dollars in damages and penalties, says Rick Rountree, public affairs, R-P. Dekalb plans to appeal, and R-P plans to seek an injunction to disallow sales of Dekalb's RR corn for the 2000 growing season.

In a second suit in a U.S. district court, two Monsanto subsidiaries, Asgrow and Dekalb, were not allowed to dismiss a portion of a lawsuit filed by Pioneer that alleges that they misappropriated seed germ plasm from Pioneer. The ruling comes after Asgrow and Dekalb admitted in court that 25 of the 26 hybrids Pioneer identified in its initial filings did indeed contain Pioneer germ plasm. Cargill, the third defendant named, did not file a similar motion but stated it found "problem areas" in its breeding program regarding use of Pioneer germ plasm. The case now moves into discovery.

In a third suit filed by Dekalb against Novartis YieldGard Bt hybrids, a U.S. district court dismissed claims of infringement on three of five Dekalb patents. "This court order confirms that these Dekalb claims were without merit," says Ed Resler, general counsel for Novartis Seeds. "But it is unfortunate it took more than two years and substantial legal expense to reach this obvious conclusion."

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