We've had plenty of stories over the years of Monsanto's incredibly aggressive stance
when it comes to its "Roundup Ready" patents. The company has now been awarded $1 billion from Dupont
for infringing on one of these patents. Now, here's a case where we're talking about competing companies, so perhaps no big deal, right? Except there's one tidbit here that makes this interesting: Dupont never brought the product in question to market
. So the "damages" to Monsanto would seem to be minimal... except in a court of law apparently. According to Patently-O:
The damages theory was interesting. Since the accused product was not yet on the market, Monsanto did not seek any lost profit. Rather, Monsanto demanded a reasonable royalty for the research-use made by the defendants. Monsanto argued that the use of Monsanto's invention in DuPont's labs and Pioneer's test fields gave those companies an "improper head start" in making the GM seeds. The judge and jury agreed – if those companies wanted to build upon the invention then they should have first obtained a license. In the pharmaceutical world, 35 U.S.C. § 271(e) offers a research exemption for this type of activity. However, that exception does not apply here because of the low level of regulation over genetically modified food-products. The patent is set to expire in 2014. The patentee's right-to-exclusive-research supported by this case means that the 2014 date offers a starting-date for follow-on competitive research. Any actual products building directly upon the patented invention will arrive on the market sometime later.
Got that? Normally, companies can build on top of others' products as patents are set to expire, so they're ready to launch once the patent has expired. But, in this case, even trying to build new offerings in a lab for use later is apparently an insane billion dollar issue. Even worse, it means that any real competition, which will create more market-reasonable prices, gets significantly delayed as no one can prepare for when the patent expires.