This week the folks at Capstan Ag Systems announced they had filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Raven Industries and CNH Industrial.
In its release, Capstan Ag Systems says it alleges that Raven's "Hawkeye" agricultural sprayer system infringes on two of Capstan's patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 8,191,795 and 8,523,085. The first is the patent on the "method and system to control flow from individual nozzles while controlling overall system flow and pressure." The second is a patent to control the "method and system to control flow from individual nozzles while controlling overall system flow and pressure."
Both patents relate to ag sprayer systems and methods that use individual valve control as part of the Capstan Ag Systems pulse-width modulation system. It's a kind of digital spraying that offers nozzle-level control across a complete spray boom.
The company also alleges that CNH entered into partnership with Raven to offer the Hawkeye system on CNH equipment under the name of AIM Command Flex. Until recently, CNH had offered Capstan's products on its sprayers as AIM Command and AIM Command Pro. Which is why Capstan named CNH in the lawsuit as well.
In the announcement of the lawsuit, Jeff Grimm, Capstan's director of operations, comments: "Capstan became the market leader in PWM sprayer technology through long-term investment in research, development, education and customer support. We will vigorously defend our proprietary technology from infringement from our competitors."
Patent infringement lawsuits are part of the regular course of business in today's high-tech world. Apple sues Samsung, Samsung sues Apple. In ag biotech, there were several lawsuits in the early days as each company worked to stake its claim to specific intellectual property in the market.
For farmers, this lawsuit is enlightening in that tech companies battle out in the public spotlight of the courts sometimes to set values for their technology. We don't know who will win in court, and often these suits don't get to the actual court as the parties sit down and work out agreements for technology use and patent royalties.
The good news in all this is that the innovation engine in agriculture isn't stopping, and there are already systems - like the courts - to set values for those innovations among those that own and use them. We'll keep you posted on the case, but realize these kinds of suits take their time going through the courts. For now, the tech is still available on the market and buyers will find that it's still available even after the lawsuit is settled - the key is who will pay whom for using what innovations.