Historically there have been a number of companies interested in the genomic sequences and expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from Arabidopsis. Many companies, including Paradigm Genetics Inc. (now Icoria Inc.), Ceres Inc., Mendel Biotechnology Inc., Syngenta, Dow Chemical, and BASF have applied for patents over Arabidopsis sequences.
The ownership of rights to Arabidopsis sequences is complicated by the pattern of mergers, acquisitions, and exclusive research licenses that give control of the intellectual property to entities different from those named as the patent applicants. In some cases when the ownership of a patent or patent applications changes hands, an assignment of rights is filed with the patent office, but in the U.S. there is no requirement that rights controlled through exclusive licenses be publicly recorded.
Monsanto has equity stakes in or controls the rights over the intellectual property resulting from exclusive research contracts with Mendel, Ceres and Paradigm/Icoria, as noted in press releases. Monsanto has actually acquired a portion of Paradigm/Icoria (Agrinomics) but in this acquisition and in the exclusive research agreements, information about the extent of the control over the intellectual property has not been made public. Monsanto has also had extensive historical ties to the Arabidopsis genome sequencing project, and has extensive bulk sequence claims over genes from other species such as cotton and soybean. Monsanto’s efforts to patent ESTs from maize were rebuffed in a court case suggesting a higher standard for utility should be applied for sequence patents (re Dane Fisher case; See also this commentary link), but hundreds of thousands of sequences remain in patent applications over Arabidopsis as well as soybean, maize, rice, and other crops.
Syngenta also controls intellectual property claims through granted and pending patents nominally assigned to a number of companies that have been partially or completely acquired by Syngenta or its parent companies, and through research alliances. Nominal assignees of Arabidopsis intellectual property probably controlled by Syngenta include Torrey Mesa, Zeneca, Ciba Geigy, Novartis, Advanta, Garst, Agripro and Danisco.
See bar graphs showing the portions of the Arabidopsis genome that are covered by patent applications and granted patents that are assigned to the following companies and others with whom they have equity stakes and exclusive research alliances: DuPont, Monsanto, Paradigm Genetics, and Syngenta.