December 21, 2005
A federal court judge has ruled
that Cargill, Inc. failed
to disclose material information to the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office while pursuing patents on healthy canola oils
with increased stability.
In the lawsuit, filed in the
United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Cargill
originally alleged that Dow
AgroSciences LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow
Chemical Company, and its customer,
Canbra Foods, Ltd.,
were infringing four Cargill patents on high stability canola
oils by producing and selling Dow's Natreon canola oil. Prior to
trial, the court ruled that two of those patents were invalid
and dismissed them from the suit.
A two-week jury trial was held
during June of 2005 in order to determine if the two remaining
patents were valid. At the conclusion of that trial, the court
asked the jury to render an advisory verdict on whether Cargill
withheld material information from the patent office while
pursuing its patents. The jury agreed with Dow and Canbra and
advised the court that it believed that Cargill had concealed
important testing data.
In its ruling yesterday, the court
adopted the jury' s advisory verdict, and ruled that Dow and
Canbra had proven that Cargill had committed "inequitable
conduct" in the patent office, based on "clear evidence of an
intent to conceal or deceive." As a result, the court ruled that
Cargill' s patents are unenforceable.
The target of Cargill's lawsuit
was Dow' s newly-developed Natreon canola oil, derived from
Dow's proprietary Nexera canola seed. Natreon oil is naturally
stable due to its "high oleic" and "low linolenic" fatty acid
profile. Natreon contains no trans-fats and has superior cooking
stability and shelf life.
"We are extremely pleased that the
court has rejected Cargill' s efforts to block consumers' access
to Natreon canola oil," > stated Pete Siggelko, vice president
for Plant Genetics and Biotechnology at Dow AgroSciences.
"Natreon offers a unique combination of traits. By replacing
oils that have high levels of saturated fats and trans-fats,
Natreon will have a very positive effect on consumers' health
while delivering improved functionality."
"Importantly, Natreon provides
superior performance and health attributes relative to the
partially hydrogenated oils widely used by food companies and
restaurants today," continued Siggelko. "In recent studies,
Natreon outperformed partially-hydrogenated soybean oil in terms
of stability and fry life, in addition to its very
significant health benefits."
Driven by the transition from partially hydrogenated oils,
Natreon canola oil production is rapidly expanding to meet
demand. Natreon oil is readily available now and Dow
AgroSciences plans to have over 500 million pounds of Natreon
available by the fall of 2006.
Tuesday's ruling was Dow's third
significant victory over Cargill. In two earlier patent
interference proceedings, the patent office determined that Dow
was first to invent Natreon's uniquely healthy composition of
fatty acids, rejecting similar claims by Cargill.
Dow AgroSciences LLC, based in
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, is a global leader in providing pest
management and biotechnology products that improve the quality
and quantity of the earth's food supply and contribute to the
health and quality of life of the world's growing population.
Dow AgroSciences has approximately 5500 people in over 50
countries dedicated to its business, and has worldwide sales of
approximately US $3.4 billion. Dow AgroSciences is a
wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company.
Canbra Foods Ltd., a
wholly-owned subsidiary of James Richardson International
Limited, one of Canada's leading agri-business companies, is a
progressive, integrated canola processing and packaging facility
in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Canbra is a supplier of Natreon
oil to the food and food service industries.