Australian court rules in Cargill cattle genetics case

by Erica Shaffer
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MELBOURNE, Australia – A federal judge in Australia recently ordered Cargill and Branhaven LLC, a private holding company, to amend a patent application that industry stakeholders in Australia said is too broad in scope.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the promotion and research public authority for the red meat and livestock industry in Australia, applauded the court ruling. In a statement, MLA said “…the court invited Cargill USA and Branhaven LLC to amend the patent application to overcome the lack of clarity in the proposed patent claims. Both parties are due to return to court within 21 days to address the court on the issue of amendment of the patent application.

“MLA will continue to pursue every option to protect the genetic advancement of Australia’s beef herd.”

MLA launched the court challenge in November 2016. The Australia Patent Office approved a patent application by Cargill and Branhaven that covers cattle genetic selection methods. MLA argued that the scope and claims of the patent were unclear and so broad as to inhibit genomic selection for all cattle production traits in Australia.

“At a minimum, MLA believes the granting of the patent will discourage or hamper industry research into understanding the natural genetic makeup of cattle and the continued progress of Australia’s national genetic improvement programs,” the organization said at the time. “In turn, MLA fears there will be a subsequent impact on farm productivity and ultimately the Australian red meat industry, given the contribution that genetic improvement makes to their international competitiveness.”

Cattle producers in Australia pay mandatory fees for research and development. The Australian government matches those funds with roughly 15 percent of the money going to genomic research.

Cargill Australia is not part of the court proceedings, and Cargill is not actively defending the appeal. Peter McBride, director of Corporate Affairs for Cargill in Australia, said in 2016 that “Joint ownership means that Cargill cannot act independently in relation to the patent application (including in relation to any litigation). Cargill also cannot license or withdraw the patent application without the consent of Branhaven.”

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