Author: vance

Fight Between Two Chemical Giants Continues: Akzo Nobel’s Claim of IP Misappropriation against Dow Chemical Survives Motion to Dismiss

By Holly Vance and Stephanie S. Liu

In Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc. v. The Dow Chemical Company, the Delaware Court of Chancery decided a dispute between two chemical companies that were parties to a joint development agreement. Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc. (“Akzo”) alleged, among other things, that The Dow Chemical Company, doing business as Dow Advanced Materials (“Dow”), wrongfully misappropriated intellectual property that belonged in part or in whole to Akzo and breached their joint development agreement. Dow moved to dismiss pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6). The Court granted the motion in part and denied in part. Specifically, Akzo’s claims for declaratory judgment and breach of contract survived, but its alternative claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, conversion, and unjust enrichment were dismissed.

Akzo specializes in the design, manufacture, and sale of various chemical coatings, including protective coatings for food and beverage packaging and containers. Dow develops, manufactures, and sells polymeric materials, products, and technologies, including those suitable for use in coatings for food and beverage containers. In January of 2010, the parties executed a Joint Development Agreement (“JDA”) to combine the parties’ respective areas of expertise in pursuit of the development of new protective coatings for metal food and beverage packaging containers. Depending on the resulting invention, any given project under the JDA could either be wholly owned by one of the two parties or jointly owned. Dow terminated the JDA in October of 2011, and then communicated to Akzo in May of 2012 that it intended to file two patent applications relating to potential JDA inventions. In June of 2013, Akzo filed its complaint, asserting claims for: (1) a declaratory judgment regarding Akzo’s ownership rights under the JDA; (2) breach of contract and a permanent and mandatory injunction against Dow; (3) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (4) conversion; and (5) unjust enrichment. The Court reviewed the complaint under the reasonable “conceivability” standard, the governing pleading standard in Delaware to survive a motion to dismiss, which asks whether there is a “possibility” of recovery.

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Tossed Out With The Weeds – Delaware Chancery Court Dismisses Derivative Action Alleging Breaches of Fiduciary Duty by DuPont Directors and Officers

By Holly Vance and Jonathan Miner

In Ironworkers v. Andreotti, Vice Chancellor Glasscock of the Delaware Chancery Court granted DuPont’s motion to dismiss for plaintiff’s failure to properly state a derivative action claim. In reaching its decision, the Court affirmed that the business judgment rule is the standard of review used in derivative actions where the plaintiff has made a demand of the board of directors and the board declined such demand.

Beginning in 2002 DuPont began to develop genetically modified corn and soybean seeds to compete with Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” seeds, which have the ability to survive application herbicides, including Monsanto’s own Roundup herbicide. DuPont referred to the product it was developing as “GAT”. During this same time period, DuPont was also licensing the Roundup Ready gene trait from Monsanto. DuPont encountered setbacks in field testing of GAT and as a result began experiments in combining GAT together with the Roundup Ready gene trait. The relationship between DuPont and Monsanto deteriorated as DuPont attempted to develop its GAT products, and in May 2009 Monsanto brought suit against DuPont for breaches of the license agreement for the Roundup Ready gene trait, patent infringement and other related claims. In July 2012 a jury found in favor of Monsanto and awarded it $1.2 billion in damages. DuPont began steps to appeal the decision and began negotiating a settlement with Monsanto. On March 25, 2013 DuPont and Monsanto entered into a settlement agreement that was structured as a new license agreement and included royalty payments to Monsanto of $1.75 billion over 10 years for the rights to use the patent for the Roundup Ready gene trait.

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A Corporation’s Advancement of Legal Fees and Expenses to Its Officers and Directors

By Holly Vance and Sophia Lee Shin

This case involves a plaintiff who sought advancement for his legal fees and expenses in connection with insider trading charges. In opining on the defendant’s motion to dismiss or stay the action and the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, the Court considered various issues, including the four-factor analysis of McWane and the difference between advancement and indemnification.

Nipro Diagnostics, Inc. (“Nipro”), the defendant, acquired Home Diagnostics, Inc. (“HDI”) on March 15, 2010. Soon after the merger, the SEC began an investigation of George H. Holley (“Holley”), the founder and chairman of HDI and the plaintiff in this case, for suspicious trading in HDI stock around the time of the merger announcement (the “SEC Investigation”). On May 20, 2010, Holley requested that HDI advance his expenses in the SEC Investigation, and executed an undertaking (required with any advancement) promising to repay HDI for any advanced expenses if it were ultimately determined that Holley was not entitled to indemnification. From June 2010 to November 2010, Nipro advanced Holley’s expenses relating to the SEC Investigation. On January 13, 2011, the SEC commenced an action against Holley for violating federal securities laws by disclosing information about the merger (the “SEC Action”). On February 4, 2011, Holley was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the State of New Jersey for insider trading (the “Criminal Action”). On August 19, 2011, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a stay of the SEC Action. Holley eventually pled guilty to two counts of insider trading in the Criminal Action.

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Supreme Court Partially Reverses Chancery Decision Interpreting Common Voting Agreement Provisions

By Holly Vance and Porter Sesnon

In Salamone, Dura, and Halder v. Gorman, IV, the Supreme Court of Delaware (the “Court”) partially affirmed and partially reversed a Chancery Court decision determining the composition of the board of directors (the “Board”) of Westech Capital Corporation (“Westech”).  The dispute centered on the interpretation of a Voting Agreement entered into by Westech and the purchasers of Westech’s Series A Preferred Stock in 2011.

The Voting Agreement provisions at issue were Sections 1.2(b) and 1.2(c), each of which set forth the process for designating certain individuals to serve on the Board.  Section 1.2(b) provides for one director to be designated “by the majority of the holders of the Series A Preferred Stock . . . .”  Section 1.2(c) provides two individuals to be designated “by the Key Holders . . . .”  The dispute revolved around the removal by John J. Gorman, IV (“Gorman”), Westech’s majority stockholder, of a current director nominated pursuant to Section 1.2(c) and the election of two new directors, one pursuant to Section 1.2(b) and another pursuant to Section 1.2(c).

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