Court Rules: No Copyright Protection for Pesticide Labels

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Willowood USA, LLC has obtained a victory against Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC that has national implications for the crop protection industry. In an April 10 ruling, a federal district court in Greensboro, North Carolina, held that pesticide labels are not subject to copyright protection.

Until then, the only other federal court decision, issued in 2006, had ruled in favor of the basics and held that copyright protection applies. In this latest ruling, the North Carolina court found the prior decision to be “unconvincing,” and held that federal pesticide law “contemplates that a [generic] applicant will copy from the original pesticide label in ways that would otherwise infringe a copyright.”

“We are very pleased that there is finally a federal court decision that corrects the prior court decision,” states Brian Heinze, Willowood president and CEO. “This ruling should put a stop to the baseless and anti-competitive efforts of the basic manufacturers to use the copyright laws as a means to fight generic competition. The generics and EPA have always believed that copyright laws do not apply to pesticide labels.

“Willowood intends to vigorously defend itself against Syngenta’s remaining allegations of patent infringement in the North Carolina case. The court recently ruled that Willowood infringed two Syngenta patents when it imported just 5 kg of azoxystrobin for purposes of testing and formulation. However, Willowood never sold any azoxystrobin until after those patents expired in February 2014. We welcome the opportunity to prove in court that Willowood has never infringed any Syngenta patent in connection with the sale of any product.”

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