CARGILL says it is not accurate to say the outcome of an attempt to patent cattle genomics technology is now in its hands.
As pressure mounts on the global meat giant to put an end to the application which Australian beef producers believe will cost them dearly, the company has just released a statement.
Although soaked in legal speak, it appears to make the claim Cargill does not actually have the ability to prevent a narrowing of the application, which is what a Federal Court judge indicated would lead to the patent being granted.
Cargill has joint ownership of the patent application with US company Branhaven, a company believed to specialise in extracting value from a patent portfolio rather than having direct interests in the cattle industry.
Branhaven acquired it’s interest in the patent following the bankruptcy of Cargill’s previous partner Metamorphix.
Meat and Livestock Australia has spent more than a million dollars appealing the Australian Patent Office’s acceptance of the patent application and Cargill has not actively defended that appeal.
The Federal Court two weeks ago gave the applicants a short period to narrow the claim before making a ruling on MLA’s appeal.
That has prompted beef industry leaders to plea with Cargill, as a joint owner, not to allow changes that might lead to its success.
Cargill’s statement this afternoon says:
“Co-ownership of patents has different meanings throughout the world. In Australia, by default, co-ownership means that one owner cannot act without the other owner’s consent. As a general proposition, this particular default position can be changed by agreement between the parties.
Cargill filed a submitting notice in October 2016 agreeing to accept the outcome of the appeal (which it did not appear in). The matter is not yet concluded – the judge has not made orders and it is not appropriate for Cargill to comment on what the outcome will be. Unfortunately, in order to comply with all of our legal and contractual obligations, we cannot comment any further. However, it is not accurate to say “the ball is in Cargill’s court” or the outcome “is in Cargill’s hands” in relation to these particular proceedings.
It should be noted that Cargill has been served with a freezing order made by the Supreme Court of Victoria in respect of the assets of Branhaven LLC, which include its interest in the Patent application. The freezing order prohibits all dealings with the Patent Application by Branhaven LLC. Cargill has been placed on notice by Branhaven LLC’s former solicitors that any steps taken by Cargill which would facilitate a dealing with Branhaven LLC’s interest in the Patent Application would be a most serious matter and may amount to a contempt of Court. Cargill acknowledges and respects the freezing order made by the Supreme Court of Victoria and will not be taking any steps which would breach the freezing orders.”