Syngenta Challenges Patent it Claims Contains “Obvious” Methods

On Monday, Syngenta Crop Protection Ag filed a petition before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board asking it to review a patent granted to Plantlab Groep B.V.  The petitioner purported that the system which was patented in U.S. Patent No. 10,667,469 (the ‘469 patent) should be cancelled because the processes it describes are commonly used in the industry. 

Syngenta reported that claim one of the patent “merely recites controlling three parameters—light, leaf temperature, and root temperature—in a way that is ‘directly proportional’ in order to control a plant’s assimilation of carbon dioxide.” The plaintiff explained that claims two through 11 describe common fixtures used in plant cultivation, and the final claim, claim 12, adds that changes to the parameters in claim one should result in a proportional change to the others. 

According to Syngenta, the patent does not describe control mechanisms, and the claims are “indefinite, not enabled, and/or lack written description support and are therefore invalid.” It also purported that the claims are invalid because they are “obvious,” as the method described in the patent was well known when Plantlab purportedly invented it. 

The complaint discussed the process of creating the patent, noting the prosecution and arguments made by the patent owner. Syngenta said that the patent owner argued before the office that “features of the invention were more explicit than the actual claim language,” and cited a quote where Plantlab said the language “‘merely claims already known components of plant environment and controls them/adjusts them.’” 

The plaintiff further filed various exhibits comparing the patent to previous patents which contained similar systems and containing declarations from consultants who considered the patent for Syngenta.  Bruce Bugbee, who has a PhD. in Environmental Plant Physiology, stated in a declaration his opinion that the claims challenged by Syngenta are “indefinite, lack written description and enablement support, are obvious under the prior art, and are not patent eligible.”

Syngenta is represented by Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP