Biopesticide Patent Landscape Dominated by a Select Few; One Will Soon Be Uncatchable

Biopesticides are en vogue in the world of agtech. Ever since Bayer acquired Agraquest for nearly half a billion dollars in 2012, start-ups have been raising significant money and jockeying for position as attractive partners and/or acquisition targets. The biopesticide market is still small – in the single-digit billions of dollars worldwide (see the Lux Research webinar “Planting Seeds for Future Success“) – but these products continue to take market share from the conventional pesticide market, which is worth more than $50 billion worldwide. While smaller companies like Marrone Bio Innovations and Stockton Agrimor have made headlines by developing promising biologicals, it’s really the world’s leading agrichemical companies that dominate the patent landscape for biopesticides (see figure below). Of the top 10 patent assignes in the biopesticide space, only five major companies and two smaller companies (Marrone and Qingdao Haolite) are represented. Notably absent from this group is Syngenta, a major player in the conventional agrichemical space.

The agriculture industry has been used to its “Big Six” companies being dominant for years, so much of this graph should come as no surprise. However, recent corporate consolidation moves have begun to shift that landscape, and new leaders are emerging in some areas. Biopesticides are no different. Dow AgroSciences and DuPont had been close to each other in terms of patent activity, but well separated from BASF, the next most active in the space. Looking ahead to the completion of Dow and DuPont’s merger-in-progress, it’s clear that the combined entity will be uncatchable in terms of patent activity. Clients should be aware of how the pending corporate moves will modify these established patent activity landscapes, in biopesticides as well as in other areas of agtech. For clients not in this top 10, but with interests in building a robust biopesticide innovation program, look to partnering strategies to get a seat at the table.

(A note on methodology: The above analysis is based on querying a comprehensive IP database. Results will vary based on tools used, search criteria, and associated granularity. Our analysis is based on a broad search, and is not indicative of the quality and focus of each patent portfolio; the inclusion of a term in a patent does not mean that term is the patent’s primary technology or claims. This analysis is not meant as legal advice, or as a substitute for in-depth IP due diligence, and should not be used for legal or policy decisions.)

By: Sara Olson