Farmer Accused of Infringing Cotton Seed Patents

Bayer Cropscience LP and Monsanto Technology LLC filed a complaint on Friday in the Northern District of Texas against Teddy Willis purporting that he “knowingly, intentionally, and wilfully” infringed their patents by making or selling cotton seeds using the agriculture giant’s patented technology. 

According to the complaint, the defendant was using seeds containing the technology Bayer uses in Bollgard II and XtendFlex, but he did not have permission from Bayer. Willis reportedly used seeds he got from previous harvests and also breached Bayer’s patent by delinting the harvested seeds and supplying them to other farmers. 

The defendant is a Texas citizen who lives and operates a farm in Lubbock County. Bayer claimed that the defendant infringed U.S. Patent No. 7,223,907; U.S. Patent Number 7,381,861; and U.S. Patent Number 8,420,888, which were issued respectively in 2007, 2008, and 2013 and are owned by Monsanto. Bayer is the exclusive licensee of each of the patents, according to the complaint. 

The plaintiffs explained that the biotechnology, used in the two cotton seeds they allege were infringed by Willis, allows a cotton plant to resist worm species that can damage the plants and tolerate certain herbicides, including glyphosate, dicamba, and glufosinate, which can cause damage to crops that are not modified to be resistant. 

Bayer and Monsanto reported that they invested money and research into developing the products, which provide a significant benefit to farmers. The companies further reported that farmers using the patented seeds agree to a license agreement, which only allows them to grow “a single commercial crop.” Since the seeds produced by the crop contain the patented technology, farmers are not allowed to save or sell the seeds to be replanted, but instead need to purchase new seeds from an authorized dealer. 

Willis, according to the plaintiffs, did not have a license from Bayer “to purchase, use, sell, or offer for sale,” seeds with the patented biotechnology.  He did, however, have a license between 1999 and 2010, which caused the plaintiffs to purport that he understood that he would need a license. The defendant reportedly sold the seeds at a lower price than the same seeds sold by the plaintiffs.  

The complaint accused Willis of patent infringement and asked for a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, costs and interest, and a permanent injunction to stop the defendant from continuing to make, use, or sell the infringing seeds. 

Bayer and Monsanto are represented by Thompson Coburn LLP