Corteva, Bayer in Biotech Legal Battle

OMAHA (DTN) -– Seed trait companies Corteva Agriscience and rival Bayer CropScience have filed lawsuits in federal court this week over patent rights involving herbicide trait technology.

Corteva, in a lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court for Delaware, alleges Bayer/Monsanto has violated Corteva's patent rights to a gene that "encodes a unique herbicide resistance enzyme" for corn that allows farmers to use multiple types of herbicides against weeds.

In its complaint, Corteva points to its patent for the AAD-1 enzymes that creates resistance to two different classes of herbicides with different modes of action. Commercialized in Corteva's Enlist brand of corn products, the AAD-1 enzymes allow farmers to use herbicides to control weeds including those resistant to Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide, Roundup.

In a statement to DTN, Bayer maintained that Corteva's filing came just hours after Bayer filed suit against them in Delaware state court, alleging that Corteva breached contractual obligations to Bayer related to the development and commercialization of E3 soybeans. "Bayer believes that Corteva practiced Bayer technology in the development of E3 soybeans. Our suit was filed under seal because it contains confidential contractual details, which limits what we can discuss at this current time; however, we will have more details to share in the coming weeks," the statement read.

Corteva alleges Bayer (which now owns Monsanto) has developed plans that produce the AAD-1 enzyme to have dual activity resistance against 2,4-D and quizalofop. Corteva alleges Bayer renamed the AAD-1 enzymes as "FT" enzymes. And Corteva notes Bayer has filed at least one application with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for deregulated status for a new corn variety, MON87429 maize.

Citing Bayer's moves to produce and market the MON87439 corn variety, Corteva points to an April 2021 DTN/The Progressive Farmer article, "Five-Herbicide Corn Tech: Bayer's Future Five-Way Herbicide Corn Under Review by USDA." The article noted, "Bayer is developing a corn technology that would tolerate in-season applications of five herbicides -- dicamba, 2, 4-D, glufosinate, glyphosate and quizalofop."

In a complaint laden with coding and sequences for the AAD-1 and FT proteins, Corteva stated the company believes Bayer has infringed on at least two claims of Corteva's patent on the AAD-1 enzymes.

Regarding Corteva's allegations, Bayer's statement added: "Bayer believes it has a strong defense against Corteva´s claims of patent infringement. In this case, we have our own patents that cover our HT4 product concepts and do not believe that we need a license to the Corteva patent. Our legal team is in the process of a thorough review of the filing to determine next steps."

Corteva calls for a judgment enjoining Bayer from infringing on its patent. Corteva also seeks a damage award against Bayer "including at minimum reasonable royalties, together with interest, costs, expenses and disbursements" under the law.

Along with its complaint, Corteva filed exhibits with more than 450 pages of associated documents.

In a posting on its website, Corteva noted, "The Enlist Weed Control System -- inclusive of herbicides and traits in corn, soybean, and cotton is protected by hundreds of patents worldwide."

Corteva cited the company spends more than $1 billion each year on its own research and development of crop innovations for farmers. That demands strong enforcement of intellectual property to continue such R&D.

"Corteva will defend its intellectual property to continue to bring farmers much needed technology," the company stated.

Also see, "Five-Herbicide Corn Tech: Bayer's Future Five-Way Herbicide Corn Under Review by USDA," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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