Deere is trying to block two Iowa manufacturers from selling competing products that allow farmers to sow their fields faster.
The company filed the patent infringement lawsuits against Kinze Manufacturing and Ag Leader in U.S. District Court on Dec. 4, alleging that their new devices are too similar to a product Deere introduced seven years ago.
Deere asked a judge to issue an injunction, potentially blocking Ag Leader and Kinze from selling their high-speed planters.
Kinze and Ag Leader said in a joint statement after the lawsuit was filed that they “deny all allegations of infringement.”
“These type of disputes are not uncommon,” the statement added. “This legal action has absolutely no effect on the availability of current Kinze and Ag Leader products.”
Kinze and Ag Leader announced at the beginning of last year that they had collaborated on a new high-speed planter system, a piece of equipment that farmers can add to their standard planters to allow them to push their machines across fields at 12 mph. Farmers typically restrict planters’ speeds to 5 mph, as seeds dropped from the machines are more likely to bounce or roll when they hit the ground at higher speeds.
Ag Leader began selling its new system, SureSpeed, in July. Kinze Manufacturing, meanwhile, is taking orders on its product, True Speed, and plans to roll it out this year.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for Deere argue that the competitors’ new systems rely on mechanics too similar to Deere’s patented ExactEmerge row units, which the company debuted in 2014. Deere says its product allows farmers to push their planters to 10 mph.
Kent Shannon, an agricultural engineering field specialist with University of Missouri Extension, said he does not know of any company that rolled out similar technology before Deere.
Shannon said the Ag Leader-Kinze product is not identical to Deere’s but it relies on a similar system to discharge the seeds. He said he is not sure whether the system is different enough from Deere’s to be safe from patent protection.
“There could be enough similarities (for Deere to win), if you just look at the overall concept,” he said.
Source: Des Moines Register