Not much surprises me anymore. I suppose when you live nearly 7 decades and give more than cursory attention to the things that happen around you on a daily basis, at some point disbelief disappears.
The fact that Deere & Co. is suing AGCO and Precision Planting is no more surprising than Case IH filing a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Justice that Deere’s acquisition of Precision Planting would create a monopoly in the high speed planting market. And I wasn’t surprised when Deere sued a shortline (specialty equipment) manufacturer a few years ago for using the same or similar combination of colors on its equipment by which Deere’s farm machinery is recognized by.
Deere’s suing AGCO and Precision Planting isn’t surprising, but something did surprise me. There are two main reasons one company buys another. One, to get what they have. Two, to eliminate competition. When Deere tried to acquire Precision Planting from Monsanto a few years ago, it was for one or both of these reasons.
Here’s what surprises me about the company’s most recent action. It’s not the suit itself, it’s the timing.
According to the June 8 On the Record episode Deere filed separate complaints against Precision Planting and AGCO, claiming that when you combine the SpeedTube and vSet Classic or vSet 2 seed metering systems that it infringes on the ExactEmerge system.
From what I know, there’s been no new developments with the Precision Planting system since AGCO acquired it. This being the case, one would think that if the technology is infringing Deere’s technology now, why wasn’t it infringing it then? So, why didn’t Deere sue Precision Planting for infringement before it tried to acquire it from Monsanto? Or why didn’t it sue Monsanto after it acquired Precision Planting and before it sold it to AGCO?
I’m sure there’s a lot of legal mumbo jumbo involved, but on the surface, it looks like a big pile of sour grapes. Deere is used to winning, but this time it lost out to a smaller competitor. Maybe Deere’s just buying time until it can come out with something new and better. Maybe they’re doing it just to be annoying. Maybe Deere’s doing it just because it can. Maybe its reasons will come out in court if it gets that far. We will have to see.
But this gives me another opportunity to get on my “shortline soapbox.” And I will repeat here what I’ve said and written about previously. If it weren’t for the specialty equipment makers, the full line manufacturers wouldn’t have anything to copy. Gregg Sauder the founder of Precision Planting is a great example of this. Kinze’s another.
If you want to read about some of the other true innovators in ag equipment over the years, check out Mike Lessiter’s ongoing series “How We Did It: Conversations with Ag Equipment’s Entrepreneurs.”
When the dust finally settles on the Deere-Precision Planting-AGCO case, I hope agriculture and the farm equipment entrepreneurs prevail.