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Dupont’s Pioneer Sues Monsanto Over Patents for Seed-Making

DuPont Co.’s Pioneer Hi-Bred unit expanded its grievances against Monsanto Co. with a lawsuit alleging infringement of two patents for producing corn seed that can withstand environmental stress.

Monsanto is defoliating corn plants between pollination and harvest to produce more vigorous seeds, a method patented by Pioneer, DuPont said today in a complaint filed in federal court in Des Moines, Iowa. Two of the Pioneer inventors now work for St. Louis-based Monsanto, DuPont said.

The companies have been trading lawsuits since DuPont bought Pioneer in 1999. The most recent case was filed in 2009, when Monsanto accused Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont of infringing patents for seeds that resist Roundup, the world’s best-selling herbicide. DuPont responded by accusing Monsanto of using its dominance in biotechnology seeds to stifle competition.

The patents, one issued in 1996 and the other in 2000, cover a way to defoliate plants before harvesting to improve the quality of maize seed. The goal is to produce better plants, even if the weather or soil isn’t optimal, according to the patents.

The “novel seed production technique” improves seed germination under environmental stress, said Dan Turner, a spokesman for DuPont, the world’s second-biggest seed producer behind Monsanto.

Kelli Powers, a Monsanto spokeswoman, had no immediate comment when reached by telephone.

Antitrust Counterclaim

A trial is scheduled for June in St. Louis on Monsanto’s effort to block a plan that would use Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait with DuPont’s GAT genetics. The DuPont technology is an alternative way for seeds to survive applications of the Roundup glyphosate herbicide. DuPont’s antitrust counterclaims, which contend Monsanto’s patents were fraudulently obtained, are scheduled for trial in April 2013.

The case is Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 11cv497, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa (Des Moines).

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