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Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia are renowned globally for their agricultural industries and this region is therefore highly important to multinational agribusiness companies. Equally, these countries continue to invest heavily in innovative and sustainable approaches in this sector, essential to maintaining their global presence.

Agriculture is an area in which innovation has always been essential, to allow the continued ability to feed, clothe and protect a growing world population. Significant advances are being made across a variety of specialised technology fields, from agrichemicals and plant/animal biotechnology, to advanced mechanisation and automation of farming and related operations, to ‘digital agriculture’.

Our attorneys are specialised in all of the relevant technology areas, allowing us to take a tailored, multi-disciplinary team approach to providing solutions for our clients.

Sustainable production remains a key research theme, often involving the improvement of naturally occurring product, for example by genetic modification and/or selection, or the improved production of naturally occurring product, for example with selective herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers and feed.

In many instances, the commercialised technology arises from a convergence of biotechnology and chemical sciences. Further, some products and services are often commercialised so as to facilitate the sale of other products or services into the market, a case in point being the commercialisation of new plants or animals having agrochemical resistance to facilitate the sale of the agrochemical itself.

In Australia, plants and animals can generally be protected per se, as can various uses of them and methods of treating them. There is also no difficulty in protecting agrochemicals, and importantly in this particular sector, it is typically possible to protect combination products of agrochemicals. As a country where agriculture remains one of the most important industries, this means that multinational companies develop extensive patent portfolios.  And we have the expertise to not only manage and defend these portfolios, but to ensure that each application works with the others to create a single, commercial picture.

Our focus is on providing a team based approach to the solution of our agricultural client’s problems. This is particularly valuable where the relevant commercialisation arises from a convergence of biotechnology and chemical sciences, and in these circumstances we tailor our client solution by hand picking attorneys for a given matter who have the relevant technical expertise.

Under the umbrella of AgTech, modern computer technology allows interconnection of physical devices for collection and sharing of data in agricultural operations, with cloud computing providing hitherto unimaginable enhancements in data storage, access and scalability, leading to huge opportunities for seamless integration into centralised decision making, business and financial software (“Ag Fintech”). Robotics allow controlled or automated performance of discreet operations formerly carried out by humans, such as automated robotic harvesters, while autonomous systems can function without specific instructions, deriving direction from analysis of data inputs (for example, cultivators, sprayers, driverless tractors and harvesters).

All of this provides incredibly exciting opportunities for innovative players to secure meaningful IP protection, but equally raises potential risks for businesses operating in these sectors who may find themselves facing unexpected restrictions on their freedom to operate.

Our technical range of expertise includes:

  • Fertilizers
  • Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides
  • Resistance genes
  • Breeding values
  • Genotyping
  • Plant and animal varieties
  • Farming practices
  • Land management
  • Carbon and nitrogen fixation
  • Software and telecommunications
  • Remote sensing, data processing and analysis
  • Enhanced mechanisation and automation, including robotics
  • FinTech (as applied to the agricultural supply chain)

Our expertise in action

Our clients include a leading multinational agricultural company and number of Australian agricultural R&D corporations and universities.

We advise various Australian start-ups in the agricultural and AgTech sector, helping them in the process of de-risking to bring their innovations to market and adding value in their intellectual capital.

We represent a multinational agricultural client, and a number of companies focused on technologies that have been spun out from them. In addition to managing the prosecution of their patent portfolio in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, we represent our client in Australian and New Zealand opposition proceedings and provide validity and infringement assessments in these jurisdictions. We provide a team based approach drawing on chemical and genetic expertise and we take a holistic perspective on product protection, taking account of all relevant patents and patent applications of the client.

We successfully defended an important patent in the field of animal genetics before the Australian Patent Office, and assisted with the successful defence of it before the Federal Court of Australia.

We also act for an Australian research corporation where we undertake regular freedom to operate assessment and monitor, advise on, and manage patent infringement risk. Our work is critical to Australia’s largest national breeding program. A feature of our work has been our innovative approach to building a database that defines the relevant patent landscape.

Key contacts

Karen Bentley

Principal, Melbourne, Singapore | BAppSc (Hons), PhD, MIP Law

Chris Bird

Principal, Melbourne | BA (EngSci), MSc (Intellectual Property)

Tracey Hendy

Principal, Melbourne | BE (Manufacturing & Materials)

Emma van Embden

Associate Principal, Melbourne | BA, BSc (Hons), PhD, MIP Law

Awards & Recognition

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