Mycogen Plant Science, Inc. v. Monsanto Co., CIV.A.96-505-RRM.

Decision Date08 September 1999
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.96-505-RRM.,CIV.A.96-505-RRM.
Citation61 F.Supp.2d 199
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Delaware
PartiesMYCOGEN PLANT SCIENCE, INC., and Agrigenetics, Inc., Plaintiffs, v. MONSANTO COMPANY, Dekalb Genetics Corporation, and Delta and Pine Land Company, Defendants.

Josy W. Ingersoll, and Richard H. Morse, Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor, Wilmington, Delaware; Douglas E. Olson, F.T. Alexandra Mahaney, and Jeffrey W. Guise, Lyon & Lyon, La Jolla, California; Gerald Sobel, and Joel Katcoff, Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, LLP, New York, New York; counsel for plaintiffs.

Richard L. Horwitz, Joanne Ceballos, Potter Anderson & Corroon, Wilmington, Delaware; John F. Lynch, Craig M. Lundell, Melinda L. Patterson, and Susan K. Knoll, Arnold, White & Durkee, Houston, Texas; counsel for defendants.

OPINION

McKELVIE, District Judge.

                                            TABLE OF CONTENTS
                 I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND                                                 205
                    A. The Status of the Case ......................................................  205
                    B. Background Information on Bacillus Thuringiensis ............................  206
                    C. Background Information on Genetic Engineering ...............................  207
                    D. Mycogen's Patents ...........................................................  209
                    E. Monsanto's Patent ...........................................................  214
                    F. Claim Construction ..........................................................  215
                    G. Jury Trial ..................................................................  216
                    H. Jury Verdict ................................................................  235
                    I. Post-Trial Motions ..........................................................  236
                II. DISCUSSION                                                                        236
                    A. What is the Standard for Granting Judgment as a Matter of Law? ..............  236
                    B. Should the Court Grant Mycogen's Motion for JMOL that the Claims
                       of the '600 and '862 Patents Are Not Invalid Due to Prior Invention?           237
                    C. Is Mycogen Entitled to Judgment as a Matter of Law that Defendants'
                       Accused Genes and Gene Products Infringe the Asserted Claims of
                       the '600 and '862 Patents? ..................................................  242
                    D. Are the Asserted Claims of the '600 and '862 Patents Invalid for
                       Obviousness and Anticipation? ...............................................  251
                    E. Are the Claims of the '600 and '862 Patents Invalid for Failure to
                       Satisfy the Best Mode Requirement? ..........................................  252
                    F. Are the Claims of the '600 and '862 Patents Invalid Due to Indefiniteness? ..  254
                    G. Are the Claims of the '600 and '862 Patents Invalid for Lack of
                       Enablement? .................................................................  257
                
                    H. Should the Court Grant Mycogen's Motion for a New Jury Trial? ...............  260
                    I. Should the Court Grant Defendants' Motion for Attorneys' Fees? ..............  269
                    J. Should the Court Grant Defendants' Motion to Amend Judgment? ................  272
                III. CONCLUSION                                                                       273
                

This is a patent case. Plaintiff Mycogen Plant Science, Inc. owns U.S. Patent No. 5,567,600 ("the '600 patent") and U.S. Patent No. 5,567,862 ("the '862 patent") which are directed to a synthetic gene inserted into plants to make plants insect-resistant. Michael J. Adang, Elizabeth E. Murray, Thomas A. Rocheleau, and Donald J. Merlo are the inventors. Plaintiff Agrigenetics, Inc. is a Mycogen subsidiary. In a complaint filed in October 1996, Mycogen and Agrigenetics contend Monsanto Company, DeKalb Genetics Corporation, and Delta and Pine Land Company infringe the '600 and '862 patents, and that they are contributing to and inducing infringement of these patents. Defendants have answered denying the allegations and asserting affirmative defenses. Defendants also counterclaim for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of the '600 and '862 patents.

On February 3, 1998, a jury returned a verdict finding that the defendants' products do not literally infringe the contested claims of the '600 or '862 patents. The jury also found that the contested claims of the '600 and '862 patents are anticipated and therefore invalid because the subject matter was invented at Monsanto before the invention date of plaintiff's patents.

The parties moved for judgment as a matter of law and have filed other post-trial motions. This is the court's decision on all pending post-trial motions.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. The Status of the Case

The court draws the following facts from the evidence presented at trial.

Plaintiff Mycogen Plant Science, Inc. is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in San Diego, California. Mycogen owns the '600 patent and the '862 patent, which are directed to a synthetic gene inserted into plants to make plants insect-resistant. Agrigenetics, Inc., a Mycogen subsidiary, is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in San Diego, California. In this opinion, the court refers to the plaintiffs collectively as "Mycogen."

Defendant Monsanto Company is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in St. Louis, Missouri. Defendant DeKalb Genetics Corporation is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in DeKalb, Illinois. Defendant Delta and Pine Land Company is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Scott, Mississippi. In December 1998, Monsanto acquired DeKalb which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Monsanto.

On October 22, 1996, Mycogen filed the complaint in this case contending defendants infringe and induce or contribute to infringement of Claims 1-24 of the '600 patent and Claims 1-24 of the '862 patent. Mycogen also alleged that defendants willfully infringe both patents. Defendants answered denying the allegations and asserting several affirmative defenses, including that Mycogen's patents are unenforceable because Mycogen allegedly willfully misled the Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") by failing to disclose material information to the PTO, and that the '600 and '862 patents are invalid for failure to comply with 35 U.S.C. §§ 101, 102, 103 and 112. Also, defendants counterclaimed that the '600 and '862 patents are invalid for failure to comply with 35 U.S.C. §§ 101, 102, 103 and 112, including for prior invention, lack of enablement, failure to disclose best mode, and indefiniteness.

On September 30 and October 1, 1997, this court held the part of the trial necessary to construe disputed claim language of the '600 and '862 patents, in accordance with Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 116 S.Ct. 1384, 134 L.Ed.2d 577 (1996). The court subsequently issued an opinion construing the patent claims. See Mycogen v. Monsanto, D. Del. C.A. No. 96-505-RRM, memo. opin., McKelvie, J. (December 29, 1997) (D.I.343).

From January 20 to February 3, 1998, the court held a ten-day jury trial on the issues of infringement, willful infringement and invalidity. Before the close of evidence at trial, Mycogen withdrew its claims for willful infringement. On February 3, 1998, the jury returned its verdict. The jury found that defendants' products do not literally infringe the asserted claims of the '600 and '862 patents. The jury also found the contested claims of the '600 and '862 patents are anticipated, and therefore, invalid because their subject matter was invented at Monsanto before the invention date of Mycogen's patents. The jury did not enter a decision on whether Monsanto actively induced others to make, use, sell, or offer to sell infringing products, or whether Monsanto actively induced farmers to infringe by using infringing products. The jury did not reach a decision but noted "N/A" to the following questions: (1) whether any of the contested claims of the '600 and '862 patents are invalid because the specification of the patents would not have enabled a person of ordinary skill in the art as of September 9, 1988, to make use of the claimed invention without undue experimentation; (2) whether the '600 and '862 patents are invalid because the inventors failed to adequately disclose in the patent specification what they believed as of September 9, 1988, to be the best mode for practicing their invention; and (3) whether the '600 and '862 patents are invalid because they do not clearly and distinctly claim the subject matter of the invention.

On February 5, 1998, the court entered judgment in favor of defendants.

To better explain the court's decision on the pending motions, the court first provides the reader with background on two scientific topics central to this case: (1) Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally-occurring bacterium; and (2) genetic engineering.

B. Background Information on Bacillus Thuringiensis

The court draws the following facts from the court's claim construction opinion and from the evidence presented at trial.

Bacillus thuringiensis ("Bt") is a naturally-occurring bacterium found in soil. Bt possesses an unusual property; it produces a protein that kills certain crop-destroying insects. This protein is known as a "pesticidal protein toxin," "pesticidal protein," or "toxic crystal protein." When eaten by certain insects, the protein dissolves the insects' stomach linings, causing the insects to die. While the Bt protein is a natural pesticide, it is not harmful to humans, animals or beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs.

The Bt protein is particularly deadly for insects like the European corn borer. This worm-like insect feeds on corn plants, eating its way into stalks and...

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