(Recasts with information on Intacta patent litigation)
By Ana Mano
SAO PAULO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. seeds company Monsanto Co is confident Brazilian courts will uphold its Intacta RR2 PRO soy seed patent despite a challenge from grain growers in the state of Mato Grosso, the company’s chief of South American operations said on Wednesday.
The Brazilian patents office, known as INPI, had conducted a rigorous analysis before granting the technology patent protection, Rodrigo Santos, chief executive officer of Monsanto’s South American operations, said on Wednesday.
“We have confidence that the Brazilian legal system will recognize our right to patent protection,” Santos said on the sidelines of an event in São Paulo. “We have patent protection for the Intacta technology in many other countries and they too conducted rigorous analyses.”
This year, some 170,000 Brazilian farmers adopted the Intacta genetically modified seed technology, he said. In South America, the area using the technology is estimated at 22 million hectares, he added.
Soybean growers in Mato Grosso asked a court in November to cancel Monsanto’s Intacta RR2 PRO patent in Brazil, claiming irregularities, including the company’s alleged failure to prove it brings de facto technological innovation.
This is the second time Mato Grosso farmers have challenged Monsanto in Brazil. In 2012, the Apropos growers association claimed the company was charging royalties over its Roundup Ready patent that had expired two years earlier.
After legal disputes, farmers agreed to a discounted rate to use Monsanto’s newer Intacta seed technology, settling the matter with some Brazilian producers.
Santos’ remarks underscored the challenging business environment in Brazil, the company’s second most important market outside of the United States.
On Nov. 22, CADE, the nation’s antitrust agency, extended its deadline to review the takeover of Monsanto by Bayer by 90 days to late March, spoiling plans to complete the tie-up by the end of the year.
Santos said Wednesday the companies expect the regulatory reviews of their $66 billion agreement early next year, but he declined to be specific. The deal has been cleared in 12 countries but not in Europe, the United States and Brazil, which are considered key markets, he noted.
In Brazil, soy growers have formally requested that CADE force the sale of Monsanto’s registration, patents and brands associated with Intacta. But Monsanto has said it wants to keep the rights over this technology. (Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)