Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co. (DD:US), the world’s largest seed companies, agreed to drop their respective antitrust and soybean patent lawsuits and enter into licensing agreements for making genetically modified crops.
Monsanto will ask the St. Louis federal court to dismiss its claim that DuPont infringed patents for Roundup Ready soybeans, setting aside a $1 billion jury award, the companies said yesterday in a joint statement. DuPont will ask the court to dismiss its claim that Monsanto uses monopoly power to stifle innovation.
The agreement follows recent legal victories by St. Louis- based Monsanto over its smaller rival in the $34 billion seed market. A U.S. jury in August ordered DuPont to pay Monsanto for infringing seed patents, and the U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general dropped probes late last year into industry antitrust concerns raised by DuPont.
“We have spent a lot of time and a lot of energy fighting each other,” Scott Partridge, a Monsanto vice president, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “There came a point after a bunch of confrontations where their interests and our interests aligned.”
In the agreements announced yesterday, DuPont’s Pioneer seed unit will license the newest versions of Monsanto soybeans engineered to tolerate Roundup and another weed killer and make a series of royalty payments to Monsanto totaling $1.75 billion through 2023, the companies said.
Monsanto gains access to DuPont patents for crop-disease resistance and a corn-defoliation technique.
Royalty payments to Monsanto will be $346 million from 2014 to 2015, $456 million in the next two years, and per-unit payments starting in 2018 that will total at least $950 million, DuPont said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The cases are Monsanto Co. (MON:US) v. E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., 09-cv-686, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis) and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. v. Monsanto Co., 11-cv-497, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa (Des Moines).
Overland Loses Ruling in Library Patent Case Against BDT
Overland Storage Inc. (OVRL:US), a maker of data-protection systems, lost a patent-infringement ruling against BDT-Solutions GmbH over storage systems that archive a company’s electronic records.
BDT didn’t violate Overland’s patent rights, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Charles Bullock said in a notice posted on the Washington agency’s website.
The case targets closely held BDT’s FlexStor II product line of automated tape libraries, which it makes overseas and then lets companies sell in the U.S. under their own brand names. Automated libraries backup or archive data on tape drives in a central location and then retrieve that data from networked computers, often using robotic arms.
The Overland patents, covering technology it uses for its NEO systems for small- and medium-sized companies, are for the apparatus and methods of storing or retrieving the data. The Neo series accounted (OVRL:US) for about 31 percent of the company’s $59.6 million in revenue in fiscal 2012, the company said in its annual report.
Bullock in June said neither of the two patents had been infringed, and one aspect of one of the patents was invalid. The six-member commission in January ordered the judge to review those findings, particularly as it pertained to the validity issue of patent 6,328,766, and infringement of patent 6,353,581, which relates to a mail slot in the devices.
San Diego-based Overland named International Business Machines Corp. and Dell Inc. (DELL:US) in the original complaint; it later settled with those companies. Overland also has filed (OVRL:US) patent- infringement lawsuits against other competitors, including Quantum Corp. (QTM:US) and Qualstar Corp. (QBAK:US) Those cases are pending in federal court in San Diego.
The case is In the Matter of Automated Media Library Devices, 337-746, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
BitTorrent Founder Seeks U.S. Patent on Live Video Streaming
A new application published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office covers a technology enabling live video streaming anyone can perform without elaborate equipment.
Application 20130066969, published in the database March 14, lists Bram Cohen of Mill Valley, California, as the inventor. He is best known as the author of the BitTorrent protocol that is used for peer-to-peer file sharing.
According to the application, the technology will divide content into multiple data blocks that are transmitted to what the inventor says are “clubs.” Each person involved in the transaction will belong to at least two of these clubs. When the content comes to one person, that person will distribute the data block to others in the club, and also to people in others’ clubs. That person will also receive data blocks assigned to other clubs from members of those clubs.
The protocol covered by this application is now being made available on the BitTorrent website, where it’s called BitTorrent Live.
Royal Caribbean’s Passenger-ID System Accused of Infringement
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL:US), the Miami-based cruise line, was sued by a Michigan company for infringing a patent that covers a method for verifying the identity of a passenger.
The cruise line infringed patent 7,239,723, according to the complaint filed March 25 in federal court in Miami. The patent is allegedly infringed by a system that the cruise line uses to identify its passengers, both upon initial boarding and on subsequent entries to the ship.
Travel Photo LLC of Troy, Michigan, claims it is injured by the cruise line’s actions and seeks awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees. It also asked the court to order Royal Caribbean to halt activities that Travel Photo claims infringe the patent.
The case is Travel Photo LLC v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., 13-cv-21053, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).
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Microsoft Sends EU Report Questioning Google Search Presentation
A Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) consultant questioned the impartiality of Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s search results as European Union regulators try to end an antitrust probe of the operator of the world’s biggest search engine that is in its third year.
Internet traffic can be diverted by manipulating the order of search results, said Susan Athey, a professor of economics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a Microsoft consultant, in a blog post on Microsoft’s website. When a site is moved from the first position to the 10th position in a series of search results, it typically will lose about 85 percent of its traffic, she said.
“Impartiality of search results will become all the more important in the years to come, given that screen sizes on smartphones and tablets are smaller than on traditional PCs,” Athey said. “Smaller screens mean there is even less room for competing services to appear in Google’s mobile search.”
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has sought a deal with Google to end the antitrust probe without imposing fines, while competitors such as Microsoft and TripAdvisor Inc. (TRIP:US) have tried to pressure regulators to force Mountain View, California-based Google to change its business practices. The U.S. ended an investigation into Google in January, saying there was no evidence the company’s actions harmed consumers.
“We continue to work cooperatively with the European Commission,” Al Verney, a Brussels-based Google spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.
The EU in 2010 began investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting competitors’ ads after receiving complaints from Microsoft and others.
While Microsoft and partner Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) have about a quarter of the U.S. Web-search market, Google has almost 95 percent of the traffic in Europe, Microsoft said in a blog post in 2011, citing data from regulators.
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Three Californians Indicted for Selling Counterfeit CDs, DVDs
Three California residents were indicted by a federal grand jury for criminal copyright infringement, according to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The charges are related to the sale of counterfeit DVDs and CDs containing unauthorized copies of music and films. There is also one count of trafficking in goods bearing counterfeit trademarks.
The counterfeit goods were sold in rural Glenn and Yuba counties, according to the government statement.
If convicted on all counts, the alleged sellers of counterfeit goods face fines of as much as $2.25 million and maximum prison terms of 15 years.
The indictment followed an investigation by the FBI and the Sacramento High Tech Crimes Task Force.
According to the case docket, presently only one of the three defendants is represented by counsel. Otto Godinez-Sales, 21, of San Jose, is represented by Timothy Zindel from the Office of the Federal Defender in Sacramento. He didn’t respond immediately to an e-mail seeking comment on the indictment.
The case is U.S. v. Godinez-Sales, 13-cr-00088, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).
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Creation of IP Negotiator Post Suggested in Hatch’s Senate Bill
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, introduced a bill that would create a new ambassador-rank position in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that would have IP- related responsibilities.
Under the Innovation Through Trade Act, S. 660, there would be a “Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator” within the USTR office. This position would be a presidential appointment subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
The IP negotiator would conduct trade negotiations and enforce trade agreements related to U.S. intellectual property and would “take appropriate actions to address acts, policies and practices of foreign governments” negatively affecting U.S. innovation, according to a statement from the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill also provides for a new statutory report to be made to both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee on actions taken by the USTR to advance U.S. innovation and IP rights, and enforcement action taken to protect those rights.
IP and innovation are “all too often relegated to second- tier status in our trade policy,” Hatch said in the statement. Negotiating strong IP agreements and enforcing them is a “necessity, not an option,” he said.
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