University sues Monsanto over soybean patents

by Jeff Gelski
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The Iowa State University Research Foundation, Inc. claims Monsanto Co. infringed on two low-linolenic soybean patents, according to a lawsuit filed May 21 in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa – Central Division.

Farmers grew Monsanto’s low-linolenic Vistive soybeans, used to make cooking oil free of trans fat, on 500,000 acres in the United States in 2006, according to Monsanto. The St. Louis-based company expected the acreage to increase to 1.5 million to 2 million acres this year.

The lawsuit says Monsanto developed and began its Vistive soybean program without any license or authority from the I.S.U. Research Foundation and now licenses the technology to other entities.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Monsanto’s alleged infringement against the patents, an award of damages and trebling of damages, an award to plaintiff attorney fees and an award of prejudgment interest from the date of the first patent infringement.

Walter R. Fehr, an Iowa State University professor, and Earl G. Hammond hold one patent on low-linolenic soybeans granted on July 9, 1996, and another patent granted on July 20, 1998.

The lawsuit says the I.S.U. Research Foundation and Monsanto met Feb. 28, 2007, to discuss possible settlement terms. I.S.U. Research Foundation representatives said any settlement would have to be approved by Mr. Fehr, who was not at the meeting. Monsanto said in a May 8 letter that an agreement was reached, according to the lawsuit.

The I.S.U. Research Foundation denies an agreement was reached. The lawsuit seeks an entry of judgment declaring no agreement was reached on Feb. 28.

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