…[K]ey industry players in patent applications, IP litigation and M&A. Clients benefit from having access to lawyers with advanced degrees in science disciplines relevant to the contemporary ag-tech and agribusiness industry.
— Chambers Global 2019
Our AgTech + Food Industry team delivers innovative and business-minded solutions to help our clients feed a rapidly growing global population.
Our cross-disciplinary practice brings together the legal prowess and technical facility that allow us to understand our clients’ complex science and technologies and related business models and to help them address their strategic challenges and opportunities. Many of our lawyers are scientists and engineers with advanced degrees who are ideally equipped to assist when legal matters intersect scientific and technical issues that are common to modern agriculture and food. Our team also includes lawyers from MoFo’s leading M&A and corporate finance practices with extensive industry-specific experience.
We focus on three important industry segments: soil & crop technologies, precision ag, and food, where we provide strategic advice and legal counsel to a diverse portfolio of clients, from one-person startups to Fortune 50 companies. We also represent the academic and government sources of groundbreaking science and technology, as well as the lenders and investors that provide finance to the industry.
“‘Excellent’ practice in the global food and agricultural space: ‘It is a firm that is capable in the US as well as in countries around the world. It does a good job wherever we needed them to be.’” (Chambers Global 2019)
Our practice encompasses the areas vital to our clients in the industry:
- FDA, labeling, and other regulatory compliance
- Intellectual property strategy and management, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights
- Litigation and dispute resolution
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Privacy and data security
- Product liability and consumer class actions
- Technology transactions and commercial alliances, including advice on patent exhaustion issues
- Venture capital and commercial finance
With more than 80 agtech and food lawyers around the world, our fully integrated team has the technological knowledge, business insight, legal skills, and global reach that are critical to business success grounded in innovative discovery.
Our soil & crop technologies practice focuses on biological inputs and treatments, biological materials to produce or farm, bio-based pest management, chemical inputs, genetics-based tech, new crops, and seed technology.
- Multinational intellectual property diligence, protection, and enforcement related to agricultural products and equipment. With multiple PhDs in crop science-related fields, we are the global leader in multinational intellectual property protection related to seeds, plants, and agricultural products and equipment. Our Plant IP group encompasses a unique combination of high legal caliber in patent, licensing, trademark, and litigation and extensive knowledge in preparing and obtaining utility patents for ag-related inventions, including:
- Digital farming
- Drafting and filing plant patents and utility patents directed to new plant varieties and traits
- Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBRs)
- Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Certificates
- Plant-related variety names and trademark rights around the world
- Transgenic plants expressing new traits
- Utility patents for new plant varieties developed by classical breeding
- New plant varieties generated by gene editing technologies
- Advises on unique and complex issues related to the licensing of ag-related patents, PVPs, and trademarks, both within and outside the United States. No other firm can claim the level of experience that we have with regard to agricultural IP.
- Extensive experience counseling entrepreneurs, emerging companies, established companies, and agtech investors developing new plant varieties, isolating microorganisms for improvement of plant growth, and developing improved irrigation technologies.
- Clients working on developing new plant varieties resistant to pathogens or drought ‒ for example, using transgenic and classical plant breeding technologies to develop new varieties.
Our precision ag practice focuses on data and software-focused technologies, such as smart equipment and sensors, AI and robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as precision ag services, including farming prescriptions.
- Experienced team in decision support systems aimed at minimizing farming inputs, optimizing farming outputs, and mitigating environmental damage and risks, enabled by technological advances in GPS, variable rate equipment, sensors, aerial and satellite imagery, and data analytics and culminating in data-driven planting and harvesting prescriptions.
- Deep understanding and facility with the technology that produces predictive intelligence for the agricultural industry. Our lawyers and patent agents with Ph.D.s in agricultural biotechnology- and chemistry-related fields help clients make the most of this technology to predict outcomes and optimize results in the field, in the lab, and on the farm.
- Long history of working with companies on cloud-based solutions, IoT, and connected products generally on wide array of issues, including privacy and data security, technology, and IP issues, and industry concerns and emerging standards, as well as the considerations crucial to successful commercial data applications and regulatory compliance.
Our food practice focuses on both traditional food producers and non-traditional food companies focused on farm‑to‑consumer, as well as food e-commerce, processing and enhancement, and safety and traceability.
- One of the leading practices in the representation of food and beverage businesses, in particular with regard to FDA approval.
- Clients that include established name brands, as well as many startup businesses spanning fresh and organic and healthy food, fair-trade farming and fishing, and emerging new categories of food and beverage products.
- Deep understanding of supply chain issues, including product sourcing, authentication, and monitoring.
- Distinct experience in the organic and sustainable food sector, including name brands and new faces in fresh and organic food and cosmetics, fair-trade farming and fishing, and naturally healthy products. We advise clients on venture capital, private equity, and other financing transactions; on proper labeling of products to comply with FTC regulations and rulings; on commercial and licensing arrangements; and on the environmental concerns regarding the manufacture, recycling, and disposal of all material inputs from food and beverage product lines and services.
- Deere & Company (NYSE) in a series of acquisitions, divestitures, and commercial collaborations in the precision ag space with Monsanto among others.
- Driscolls, one of the leading growers of berries in the United States for over 100 years, in the development and implementation of its plant IP strategies.
- Farmland Partners (NYSE) in its initial public offering, two secondary offerings, and acquisition of American Farmland Partners (NYSE), as well as in more than $400 million of property acquisitions.
- Pontifax Global Food and Agricultural Technology Fund as lead investor in a $17 million Series B financing by Blue River Technology, a robotic, machine-learning crop management platform, and in connection with the sale of Blue River to Deere & Company for $305 million, as well as representing Pontifax in the $39 million Series B financing of Inocucor Technologies, an innovator and producer of sustainable biological crop inputs.
- SoftBank Vision Fund as lead investor in the $200 million Series B financing of Plenty, an indoor farming startup, in the largest agtech investment at the time.
- University of California, Davis, in delivering a resounding win in its landmark patent infringement lawsuit, an “epic battle over the right to breed sweeter and juicier strawberries” (The Sacramento Bee), in its federal lawsuit against two former UC Davis strawberry breeders and the private breeding company they created with UC-owned plants. We also serve as patent strategists for UC Davis and have drafted and prosecuted numerous PVP certificates, PBR, and plant patent applications to grant.
- VoloAgri, a vegetable seed technology and breeding company, as corporate and intellectual property counsel, including in its $69 million Series C financing led by Temasek and its worldwide plant IP strategies.