Kinze Manufacturing has accused Deere & Co. of operating an “unlawful monopoly” as part of an ongoing legal dispute between the companies.
Responding to a lawsuit from Deere that could block it from selling a new planter add-on, Kinze recently filed an antitrust counterclaim. Kinze’s attorneys accused Deere of using its market power to pressure dealerships not to sell Kinze products.
Kinze also accused Deere of using “invalid patents” to file “baseless, sham” lawsuits to overwhelm competitors with legal bills.
“Deere knows that it cannot compete with Kinze in a fair fight,” the company’s lawyers wrote in the counterclaim, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. “The only way for Deere to maintain its market share and keep its prices high is to eliminate Kinze from the market entirely, cripple Kinze’s dealer network, or litigate Kinze into submission.”
The legal battle centers on kits that, when installed, allow planters to move faster. Ag Leader is also named as a defendant in the patent infringement suit Deere filed in December.
In Kinze’s counterclaim, the company alleges that Deere has engaged in a “systematic effort” to block dealers from selling Kinze products. The company’s lawyers wrote that dealers have told Kinze representatives “for years” that they will lose the right to sell Deere tractors and combines if they also put Kinze implements on the floor.
Kinze did not list any specific dealers or provide any proof of such agreements.
It also alleged that Deere has broken federal monopoly laws with actions it has taken toward other high-speed planter manufacturers.
Deere previously negotiated to purchase Precision Planting, but the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint to block the acquisition, arguing that Deere was “by far the largest” manufacturer of seed planters at the time, recording more than half of all new sales in the industry. Had the deal gone through, the lawyers estimated that Deere would have owned 86 percent of the market, with Kinze’s share about 12 percent
Deere called off the acquisition about a month before the case was scheduled for trial.
After AGCO purchased Precision Planting instead, Deere filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the companies in 2018 over their own high-speed planter, making arguments similar to those it has since made against Kinze. That case is pending.
Source: Des Moines Register