Monsanto’s Huge Award Draws Scrutiny From Legal Spectators

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ST LOUIS — Some patent lawyers have raised questions about the recent $1 billion award to agribusiness giant Monsanto in its recent case against Delaware-based DuPont for patent infringement, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The size of the award and the speed of its delivery—the jury deliberated for just 45 minutes before returning with a verdict—have drawn some scrutiny. As the Post-Dispatch reports:

“I’m not sure how the jury reached that number, but they definitely got a home field advantage,” said Michael R. Samardzija, a patent attorney, based in Houston. “It begs the question whether the jury was impartial all the way through. Do you really reach a decision in 45 minutes?”

But not everyone agrees with that logic:

It is certainly possible to decide the damages in 45 minutes. Damages awards are just calculations based on the facts that the jury finds to be true,” explained R. Polk Wagner, a law professor and patent expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. 

The award was one of the largest ever for a patent trial, and the single largest for an agricultural biotechnology case.

In the lawsuit, Monsanto accused rival DuPont of copying Roundup Ready soybean technology–which creates resistance in soybeans to Roundup pesticide through genetic manipulation–and combining it with DuPont’s own genetic technology for commercial use before Monsanto’s patent expired in 2014.

DuPont countered Monsanto’s accusation, saying it had no intentions of going commercial with the combined technology, but rather had experimented Monsanto’s traits for non-commercial research.

At any rate, DuPont said it plans to appeal the hefty award and is currently reviewing the case.

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