Pioneer v. Monsanto; In re Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation

Pioneer v. Monsanto.  On February 28, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (“Board”) properly entered judgment for Monsanto in a patent interference proceeding over competing transgenic corn claims in Monsanto’s ‘700 patent application and Pioneer Hi-Bred’s ‘999 patent.  The Court held first that the Board correctly decided that, even though Monsanto’s ‘700 patent application of June 2005 was filed more than one year after Pioneer’s ‘999 patent issued in July 2001, the key independent and dependent claims in Monsanto’s ‘700 application “related back” to claims made by Monsanto in its ‘983 patent application filing of January 22, 1990, before Pioneer’s ‘999 patent issued.  Thus, those claims in Monsanto’s ‘700 patent application were not barred by section 135(b) of the Patent Act, which precludes an applicant from presenting a claim already made in an issued patent (in this case, Pioneer’s ‘999 patent) after a one-year “critical date.”  Second, the Court held that the Board properly concluded that Pioneer’s ‘999 patent could not benefit from the June 10, 1988 filing date of Pioneer’s ‘155 patent application, and thus properly denied Pioneer’s interference priority claim, because the ‘155 patent application did not contain sufficient disclosure to support interference priority for the later claims in Pioneer’s ‘999 patent.


In re Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation.  In an unrelated development, on February 24, 2012, Dairy Farmers of America (“DFA”) members who are plaintiffs in the Southeastern Milk Antitrust Litigation, filed a motion asking the district court in Tennessee to re-certify the DFA farmer subclass for litigation purposes, appoint new counsel for this litigation subclass and appoint subclass representatives.  Although previously certified, the DFA farmer subclass was decertified on July 28, 2011, because according to the movants, the court concluded that there was a conflict of interest between the DFA farmer subclass and the independent farmer subclass (since DFA is a defendant), and thus the same counsel could not represent both plaintiff subclasses.  The movants argue that this issue will be cured by the requested appointment of separate litigation counsel (whom they note was appointed by the court on 2/14/12 as separate counsel for the DFA farmer settlement subclass in connection with settlement with defendant Dean Foods).  They argue that the court’s previous findings and conclusions on the DFA farmer subclass’s satisfaction of Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 23 requirements “remain intact” (Motion, 3) and that the court needs toconsider only the requirements of Rule 23(a)(4) to recertify the DFA farmer subclass for litigation.


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