Oct 18 (Reuters) - DuPont's Pioneer seed unit has sued Monsanto Co, claiming its archrival infringed on patents that help genetically modified corn seeds germinate.
The suit, filed on Tuesday in U.S District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, is the latest volley in a bitter fight between the duo for dominance in the lucrative U.S. corn seed industry.
In its lawsuit, Pioneer Hi-Bred International claims that it owns patents on a method "of enhancing the vigor of maize seeds" by defoliating the plant at a particular point after pollination but before harvest, and on a maize seed and stand of maize seeds that have such enhanced vigor.
The suit alleges that Monsanto has been using the methods protected by Pioneer's patents and seeks reimbursement by Monsanto for any profits gained from the sale of products made with the patents, as well as damages.
The suit, which alleges Monsanto's infringement is "willful and deliberate," does not seek a specific dollar amount in damages.
The patents, U.S. patent numbers 5,518,989 and 6,162,974, cover technologies that improve corn seed germination.
First filed in 1994, the patents have been used by Monsanto at its Constantine, Michigan, research site, Pioneer claimed in the lawsuit.
Pioneer also wants its attorney's fees reimbursed and Monsanto blocked from using the patented methods in the future.
Monsanto issued a statement following the lawsuit's filing, calling it "baseless" and "without merit," and said the approach covered by DuPont's patent is not used in any of Monsanto's production fields.
"This filing appears to be another in a series of frivolous claims initiated by DuPont against our business and aimed at distracting us from our mission of investing in and delivering new product offerings to farmers around the world. We will defend our business against this latest attack," the Monsanto statement said.
The two companies are bitter rivals. Separate from the patent infringement suit filed on Tuesday, the two have been locked in an ongoing court battle over a soured licensing agreement.
DuPont has accused Monsanto of illegal, anti-competitive behavior and Monsanto claims DuPont has breached business ethics and violated the terms of licensing agreements
The case is Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc v. Monsanto Co, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, No. 4:11-cv-00497.
For Pioneer Hi-Bred International: John Moorlach of Whitefield & Eddy and Brian Swanson, Adam Mortara and Vincent Buccola of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott.
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder and Carey Gillam)
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