U.S. appeals court sides with Farmobile in dispute with Farmers Edge

Lentil harvest underway in southern Alberta in late August 2020 (Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

A U.S. appeals court has upheld an earlier court ruling in favour of Farmobile in the legal battle with Farmers Edge over which precision agriculture company can use certain technology for gathering farm machinery data.

On Monday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the founders of Kansas-based Farmobile, affirming a U.S. District Court judgement from 2018, for which Manitoba-based Farmers Edge had filed the appeal.

Farmers Edge launched the original lawsuit against the co-founders of Farmobile in the spring of 2016, suing CEO Jason Tatge, as well as Heath Gerlock and Randy Nuss, for breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty, and misappropriation of trade secrets.

The dispute revolved around the technology used in Farmers Edge’s CanPlug and Farmobile’s PUC devices — similar products that plug into farm equipment to collect and share machine operating information.

The CanPlug was originally developed by a company called Crop Ventures, which was purchased by Farmers Edge in 2014.

According to court documents, Tatge, Gerlock and Nuss were employed by Crop Ventures until July 2013. By September 2013, they had founded Farmobile and filed two U.S. patent applications. A Canadian patent application was filed in 2015.

In the unanimous ruling issued this week, a trio of appeal court judges said they did not find evidence that any of the three Farmobile founders breached an explicit or implicit contract with Crop Ventures, and that Farmers Edge did not prove they had breached their duty of loyalty. The judges also supported the earlier U.S. District Court ruling which found Crop Ventures “did not take reasonable steps to safeguard its trade secrets.”

“It goes without saying that Heath, Randy and everyone who works at Farmobile is elated,” says Tatge, in a news release from Farmobile.

While the ruling concludes Farmers Edge’s case against Farmobile in the U.S., the two companies are still facing off in the Canadian court system, as Farmobile is proceeding with a patent-infringement case against Farmers Edge.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2017, alleges that Farmers Edge’s FarmCommand platform infringes on a Farmobile patent in Canada. As a result, Farmobile is seeking more than C$20 million in damages and an injunction prohibiting Farmers Edge from using the technology at the centre of the case.

According to the Federal Court of Canada’s website, a 15-day hearing for the case is scheduled to begin on April 19, 2021 in Vancouver, BC.

Related: Ag Growth buys in to Farmobile

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