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Monsanto Wins Pirated Seed Case Against Tennessee Grower

(Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- A grower from Western Tennessee has been found liable for patent infringement and breach of contract recently for illegally saving, replanting, and selling patented seed. U.S. District Court Judge, Rodney W. Sippel, ruled that Kem Ralph and his farming partnership, Ralph Bros. Farms was liable to Monsanto Company for $1,782,720.00 in damages for breach of the Monsanto grower license agreement. The jury at Ralph's trial also awarded Monsanto $803,000 in damages for patent infringement.

Monsanto anticipates that one or both verdicts will be increased because Monsanto has the right to seek its attorneys' fees and costs. Additionally, because Ralph's infringement was found to have been willful, the Court may award Monsanto additional patent damages and has the right to treble the damages. Though two sets of damages have been awarded, Monsanto is only entitled to one set of damages and must elect between two sets of damages once the judge has determined the actual final damages.

Ralph, who farms about 2500 acres in Tipton, Shelby, and Haywood Counties in Tennessee, was found to have saved and replanted Roundup Ready soybean seed and cotton seed containing Bollgard and Roundup Ready technologies in 1999 and 2000. These technologies were licensed to or invented and patented by Monsanto, and are sold in more than 200 soybean seed brands nationwide. Licensed growers are authorized to use the seed for one commercial crop.

Ralph had previously been sanctioned by the Court for having obstructed the pre-trial information collecting process. In that ruling, Judge Sippel said this case was "about the fundamental deception of the defendants at every opportunity."

"The integrity of this Court and our judicial system, which is so important to each of us that we fight for it in so many ways, some every day, has been undermined by almost every aspect of the Ralph Brothers conduct in the case," said the Judge in his order.

Scott Baucum, Trait Stewardship Lead for Monsanto, said this case is about protecting the system that encourages innovation and ensures that the vast majority of growers who abide by the terms of their contracts will not be at a competitive disadvantage to those who violate the law. Baucum said that in fairness to the tens of thousands of U.S. soybean and cotton growers who are licensed users of Monsanto's Roundup Ready and Bollgard technologies and who are abiding by their grower licensing agreements, Monsanto felt it was necessary to take action against Ralph in order to maintain the integrity of its seed licensing program.

"We recognize that growers have many options and seed varieties to choose from," said Baucum. "We value the customers that have selected our products, and believe it's our obligation to maintain the integrity of the seed licensing process when growers choose to plant varieties which contain our patented technology."

Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information on Monsanto, see: http://www.monsanto.com

Source: Monsanto