Corteva Sues Over Patent Infringement

Inari Agriculture Accused of Purloining Corteva Agriscience Patent-Protected Seeds

Jason Jenkins
By  Jason Jenkins , DTN Crops Editor
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Corteva filed a lawsuit against Inari Agriculture, alleging infringement on its patent for the transgenic trait behind its Qrome seed corn. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (DTN) -- In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Sept. 27, Corteva Agriscience accused Inari Agriculture, a plant breeding technology company, of illegally obtaining hundreds of Corteva's biotech seeds, infringing upon Corteva's patent rights and violating its Plant Variety Protection (PVP) certificates.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Inari deliberately used a third-party agent to obtain protected Corteva seeds, illegally exported the seeds out of the United States, made slight genetic modifications of the biotech traits and is pursuing U.S. patents for those modified traits. Corteva is seeking damages to adequately compensate for Inari's alleged unlawful actions as well as a permanent injunction against Inari prohibiting any future actions in violation of Corteva's intellectual property.

In its complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Corteva stated it learned in December 2022 that Inari, through an elaborate scheme aimed at concealing its actions, had obtained hundreds of varieties of protected seeds from seed deposits at the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), a nonprofit organization that collects, stores and distributes biologic materials, including seeds, for research purposes only.

Corteva stated the lawsuit "seeks to prevent Inari from continuing its brazen efforts to steal Corteva's groundbreaking, patent-protected work. Inari's deceptive and unlawful conduct violates Corteva's intellectual property rights, as well as Inari's own contractual obligations."

"Companies like ours are willing to make billions of dollars of investments in the future of agriculture not only because we want to contribute to the world around us, but also because we know that if our product is effective and serves farmers well, we can recoup our investment –- and reinvest in the next game-changer," said Sam Eathington, Corteva's chief technology and digital officer, in a company press release. "Theft of proprietary technology hurts not only our company, but also, ultimately, our nation's farmers."

The patented seed technology Corteva alleges that Inari obtained illegally is a transgenic "event" that the company markets as Qrome seed corn. It provides two modes of action to control insect pests, including corn borer and corn rootworm, along with tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate. The patent was issued in November 2013.

In its press release, Corteva noted that agricultural innovations take decades of research and testing and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to bring to market. It stated that a single crop-protection product takes an average of 13 years to reach market, a biotech trait takes almost 16 years and a new seed product can take seven years. Corteva said it invests nearly $4 million every single day on research and development.

DTN reached out to Inari Agriculture to provide an opportunity to respond to Corteva's allegations. In an email reply, Emily Negrin, Inari vice president of corporate affairs, declined to comment.

According to a company fact sheet dated April 2023, Inari Agriculture was founded by Flagship Pioneering in December 2016 and has raised $475 million in total funds. It has more than 270 employees at locations in Cambridge, Massachusetts; West Lafayette, Indiana; and Ghent, Belgium.

In August, Inari Agriculture was named Overall AgTech Company of the Year by AgTech Breakthrough, a leading market intelligence organization.

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Jason Jenkins