Brazilian farmer groups are opposing a contract that Monsanto Co. (MON), the world’s biggest seed company, is offering farmers to end a dispute over royalty payments on its genetically modified soybean seeds.
Monsanto is trying to resolve uncertainty over its ability to collect fees on its new Intacta soybeans, which the St. Louis-based company is scheduled to start selling in Brazil during the next growing season.
The contract would waive royalties on Roundup Ready soy, an older technology, this year and next. In return, farmers would forgo claims in a patent dispute and pay royalties on seeds not yet on the market. The future payments are opposed by the Brazilian National Agriculture Federation, a group of farming associations also known as CNA.
“We reject the individual contracts offered by Monsanto,” Katia Abreu, the head of CNA, said Feb. 19 in an e-mailed statement. “We expect Monsanto to take back the contracts that are already signed and present a new document.”
“We are working to understand CNA’s concerns,” Kelli Powers, a Monsanto spokeswoman, said yesterday in a phone interview.
The Parana State Federation of Agriculture, known as FAEP, also said it opposed the agreement. Glauber Silveira, head of Brazil’s soybean growers association, said farmers shouldn’t sign and should continue pursuing royalty claims in court.
“We believe producers are being tricked into signing a contract that will get them trapped to Monsanto for every new technology,” Silveira said yesterday in a phone interview from Cuiaba, in the state of Mato Grosso.
Growers who sign the contract won’t pay a technology fee in the current and subsequent growing seasons on soybean seeds that are genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate herbicide, Monsanto said in a statement last month. The herbicide is marketed by Monsanto as Roundup. Farmers who sign will waive the right to try recouping royalties previously paid.
The agreement would resolve claims by growers that the patent on the original Roundup Ready soybeans expired in 2010, ending their obligation to pay Monsanto royalties on the seeds. Monsanto argues that Brazilian law extends the patent to late 2014.
The company’s Intacta seeds are engineered to produce an insecticide while also tolerating Roundup.
Monsanto suspended royalty collections in Brazil for two months last year after a court ordered a halt in Mato Grosso. The company has told investors not to count on any revenue from Brazilian soybeans this year. A forecast made Jan. 8 for profit in the current fiscal year excluded an estimated 20 cents to 25 cents a share of earnings from soybean sales in the country.
Gilead Settles HIV Drug Patent Dispute With Teva to Avoid Trial
Teva Pharmaceuticals and Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD) agreed to settle a patent dispute over Viread, a treatment for HIV infection and chronic Hepatitis B, avoiding a trial that was scheduled to start yesterday, Gilead said.
“We believe strongly in the validity of our intellectual property,” John Milligan, Gilead’s president, said in the statement. “This settlement, however, removes some uncertainty and minimizes further distraction.”
Gilead, based in Foster City, California, sued Teva in 2008 and again in 2010, claiming that Teva’s applications to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make drugs to treat HIV infections in adults infringed four of its patents. The trial in New York has been adjourned until the completion of the settlement agreement, Gilead said.
Teva, based in Petach Tikva, Israel, had said in court papers that Gilead’s patents were invalid and therefore couldn’t be infringed.
The case is Gilead Sciences v. Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA) USA, 10-01796, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Oscilla Gets U.S. Patent on Wave-Action Energy Generation
Oscilla Power Inc., a Utah manufacturer of motors and generators, received a U.S. patent on a method and device for harvesting energy from ocean waves.
Patent 8,378,513, issued Feb. 19, covers a device comprised of a buoy and an element made from materials in which magnetization causes changes in their shape or dimension. The buoy, which is partially submerged, will continuously exert a varying force on that element during normal wave action, according to the patent.
Oscilla said that devices made using this technology “are expected to have relatively low capital costs and very good survivability during strong storms.”
The Salt Lake City-based company applied for the patent in May 2011.
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Time Warner’s DC Comics Blocks U.K. ‘Batsman’ Application
Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s DC Comics Unit has persuaded the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office to block a sporting goods’ company’s “Batsman” trademark registration, the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper reported.
The office’s hearing officer agreed with the comic book company that “Batsman” sounded too much like “Batman,” a character featured in a series of DC Comics, according to the newspaper.
Adelphoi Ltd. of London, which mainly sells cricket-related goods, had sought to register the mark for a wide range of products, according to the Guardian.
Python Users in Uproar Over Our Holdings’ ‘Python’ Application
Users of the Python programming language and open-source software are objecting to a European trademark application field by a U.K.-based cloud services company, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported.
They are objecting to Our Holdings’ application to register the “Python” name for use with the cloud services if offers through the python.co.uk website, according to the newspaper.
The Python Software Foundation, which supports the Python programming language, made a request in a blog posting that those who use the product in the European Union write a letter about their concerns that can be forwarded to the foundation’s trademark counsel, the Guardian reported.
Van Lindberg, chairman of the Python Software Foundation’s board of directors, told the newspaper that economic downturns in 2009 left his organization without the budget to complete European trademark registration.
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Autodesk, Microsoft, Adobe File Infringement Suits in Siberia
Autodesk Inc. (ADSK), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE) have filed copyright infringement suits in a Siberian court against several local companies, the Russian Legal Information Agency known as RAPSI reported.
The suits, filed in the Krasnoyarsk Territory Commercial Court, are related to unauthorized software that turned up in routine inspections by law enforcement, according to RAPSI.
Among the entities sued is a tire-repair company, RAPSI reported.
The software companies are seeking money damages, according to RAPSI.
Court Refuses to Halt Software Distribution by CBS CNET Unit
Alkiviades David and others sued CBS Interactive in federal court in Los Angeles in November 2011, claiming that the distribution of peer-to-peer file-sharing software by the CBS CNEET unit induced copyright infringement.
In a Feb. 19 order, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer rejected David’s request. She said there was no evidence that the continuing distribution of the software had the object of “promoting its use to infringe copyrights”
She ruled that the only solid evidence of inducement “comes from reviews that were published decades ago.”
She found that an order against the software distribution wasn’t in the public interest and that the plaintiffs’ goal “goes far beyond stopping actual infringement” and “extends instead to silencing public discussion of P2P technologies.”
The case is David v. CBS Interactive Inc., 2:11-cv-09437- DSF-JC, U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Obama to Increase Diplomatic Pressure Against Trade-Secret Theft
The U.S. will put diplomatic pressure on countries implicated in thefts of trade secrets and seek stronger international enforcement of intellectual-property protections, according to a government report released yesterday.
President Barack Obama’s administration pledged to share more intelligence with companies about the countries involved in economic espionage and methods used to steal corporate information, and to study the need for stronger U.S. laws against trade-secret theft.
It comes a day after the computer-security firm Mandiant Corp. said in a report that the Chinese army is probably the source of hacking attacks against at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006.
The trade-secret strategy looks at more than computer-based theft. It says the pace of economic espionage is accelerating through recruitment of current and former employees of companies, as well as cyber intrusions against U.S. businesses, law firms, universities and financial institutions.
While it doesn’t single out China, yesterday’s report cites examples of economic espionage in which corporate secrets were passed to Chinese institutions.
“Trade secret theft threatens American businesses, undermines national security, and places the security of the U.S. economy in jeopardy,” the document says. “These acts also diminish U.S. export prospects around the globe and put American jobs at risk.”
The administration will intensify efforts to apply diplomatic pressure on countries “where there are regular incidents of trade secret theft” and press them to strengthen enforcement action, according to the strategy document. In trade negotiations, the U.S. will seek agreements for other countries to provide protections for corporate secrets similar to those in U.S. law.
The Director of National Intelligence will oversee increased sharing of U.S. intelligence on trade-secret theft with the private sector, including information on foreign governments involved in espionage and the types of technology targeted, the document says.
The administration will promote voluntary industry best practices on protecting intellectual property, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is expanding efforts to fight computer intrusions involving trade-secret theft, according to the administration’s strategy.
The separate cybersecurity report released yesterday said computer intrusions from China, mainly directed at U.S. companies, were carried out by a group that is “likely government sponsored” and is similar “in its mission, capabilities, and resources” to a unit of the People’s Liberation Army.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Hong Lei, denied any military involvement and said his department is opposed to computer hacking and has been a victim of attacks itself.
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