- Corteva is suing a Massachusetts-based startup for allegedly stealing the technology behind its seeds.
- The agriculture behemoth filed a lawsuit last week accusing gene-editing company Inari Agriculture of smuggling Corteva's seeds into Europe, making small changes to the biotech traits, and then applying for a U.S. patent.
- Corteva is seeking monetary damages and for a judge to prohibit the startup from taking steps to commercialize seeds based on the crop science giant's products. Inari did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Corteva said in a statement that Inari's "brazen efforts" to steal its work sets a "dangerous precedent" for the ag tech industry, where companies pour millions of dollars into research and development.
"Companies like ours are willing to make billions of dollars of investments in the future of agriculture," Sam Eathington, Corteva's chief technology and digital officer, said in a statement. “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."
Founded in 2016, Inari is run by former Bayer and Syngenta executives and claims to use artificial intelligence and multiplex gene-editing technology to design seeds that are more sustainable by requiring less water or fertilizer. The startup raised $124 million in an October fundraising round, bringing its valuation to $1.5 billion, Bloomberg reported.
In its lawsuit, Corteva claims Inari stole seeds deposited at the American Type Culture Collection, a nonprofit that stores biological materials for research purposes. The agriculture giant said it had deposited seed samples to comply with legal requirements for intellectual property protection.
"After the applicable patents were issued, ATCC made the protected seeds available for public inspection but expressly prohibited members of the public from using those seeds for commercial purposes," Corteva said in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Delaware.
"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 from ATCC," the company added.
Corteva said it invests nearly $4 million a day on research and development, and that a single biotech trait can take nearly 16 years to reach the market.
"Theft of proprietary technology hurts not only our company, but also, ultimately, our nation's farmers," Eathington said.