Monday, February 20, 2006

Inequitable conduct in Cargill/Dow patent fight

In 2003 Cargill had filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Portland, Oregon, claiming that Dow's Natreon canola cooking oil infringes on claims of four patents issued to Cargill. Cargill marketed a product: Clear Valley high oleic canola oils.

The court ruled that Dow infringed on claims of two of the four patents, ordering Dow to pay Cargill $2 million in damages.

But a post-trial motion by Dow alleged that Cargill had not submitted all relevant testing data to the US Patent Office, which resulted in the district court declaring the patents unenforceable in the US.

“The ruling is mystifying,” said Cargill president Greg Page. “Cargill submitted all the relevant data derived from the most highly reliable testing technology and procedures available. We had valid reasons for believing the un-submitted data – the results of some less precise tests on frost-damaged or immature seed samples – was inaccurate and unreliable compared with the reams of other testing data we submitted.”

“The District Court applied incorrect legal standards and made clearly erroneous findings of fact on both the relevance of the un-submitted data and Cargill's intent in not submitting it,” added Ron Dudley, head of Cargill Specialty Canola Oils. “We strongly believe the ruling is contrary to the law and will be overturned.”

On its side, Dow AgroSciences claimed that “Cargill was clearly in possession of testing data that demonstrated its oils were neither novel nor otherwise patentable.”

As the debate continues, a process expected to last about a year, Cargill said it will continue providing its high stability Clear Valley canola oils to its customers.

High oleic oils, which claim to provide good cooking stability and shelf life while eliminating unhealthy trans fatty acids, have enjoyed good demand since the nation's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required all food products to label their trans fat content.


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