Corteva Agriscience filed a lawsuit last week, alleging that Inari Agriculture Inc. stole seed technology from the public agricultural seed and chemical company.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging patent infringement, breach of material transfer agreements, and infringement of U.S. Plant Protection Certificates.
Corteva’s suit states that the company “seeks to prevent Inari from continuing its brazen efforts to steal Corteva’s groundbreaking work.” Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Inari deliberately used a third-party agent to obtain protected Corteva seeds, illegally exported the seeds out of the United States, made slight genetic modifications of the biotech traits, and is seeking U.S. patents for those modified traits.
Corteva said it learned about Inari allegedly obtaining the seeds from deposits at the American Type Culture Collection, a seed bank that stores and distributes biological materials for research. According to the complaint, although ATCC makes the seeds available for public inspection, it prohibits members of the public from using the seeds for commercial purposes.
“Despite these express prohibitions, Corteva learned in December 2022 that Inari — through an elaborate scheme apparently aimed at concealing its actions — had illegally obtained hundreds of varieties of Corteva’s protected seeds,” the complaint states.
Corteva says that it isconcerned that this type of theft may set a precedent for the industry.
“Companies like ours are willing to make billions of dollars of investments in the future of agriculture not only because we want to contribute to the world around us but also because we know that if our product is effective and serves farmers well, we can recoup our investment — and reinvest in the next game-changer,” said Sam Eathington, Corteva’s chief technology, and digital officer. “Theft of proprietary technology hurts not only our company but also, ultimately, our nation’s farmers.”
The complaint includes a reference to a story about Inari’s efforts to use unique gene-editing technology to increase crop yields.
According to previous reports, Inari, a private startup with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts and other offices in Indiana and Belgium, has declined to comment about the lawsuit.