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Monsanto, Bayer CropScience settle some suits over patents

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Agriculture biotechnology leader Monsanto Co. and rival Bayer CropScience AG said Tuesday they have reached a broad truce in longstanding patent disputes, agreeing to dismiss several lawsuits against each other.

Under the deal, St. Louis-based Monsanto and Germany's Bayer CropScience agree to license each other for various patented technologies, including insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant products.

Among other things, the agreement calls for Monsanto to have a royalty-bearing license to Bayer's enabling technology involving Monsanto's corn-rootworm product. Both companies also will amend existing licenses for each other's technologies for cotton and other crops.

Monsanto spokesman Bryan Hurley said the deal ends at least five lawsuits between the two companies, though at least four lawsuits remain pending and are "moving forward toward resolution in the legal system."

"That's in part why we didn't include them in any agreement," Hurley said of the pending cases, including two involving herbicide tolerance in corn and another relating to insect-resistant technologies.

"These agreements will enable us to focus on serving our customers rather than spending our energy on lengthy legal disputes," said Bernward Garthoff, chief technology officer at Bayer CropScience, a subsidiary of drug-making Bayer AG.

"We look forward to a more productive business environment to develop and commercialize innovative plant biotechnology products."

Garthoff's counterpart at Monsanto, Robert Fraley, called the truce "a win for farmers and a positive development for the agricultural industry," ostensibly giving growers worldwide greater access to the new technologies being developed by both companies.

"This agreement will allow us to accelerate the development of our pipeline and bring new products to farmers around the globe," said Fraley, a Monsanto executive vice president.

Monsanto reached a similar agreement in April of last year with Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont, the parent of seed rival Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. That deal added Des Moines, Iowa-based Pioneer to the list of seed companies with a license to use Monsanto's Roundup Ready and other biotechnology traits in its seeds.

The Roundup Ready trait allows farmers to spray their fields with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide without damaging their crops.

Under the license deals, Pioneer agreed to pay Monsanto a royalty for using the biotech traits.

There were 11 lawsuits pending at various levels between Monsanto and DuPont over various issues, some dating as far back as 1996.

Shares of Monsanto rose 66 cents, or 2.6 percent, to close at $26.01 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.


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