23 May 2021
A new twist to the intellectual property dispute between AgriCon Agua and InGen has broken a year-long impasse, Jonathan Lindsell reports, hitting both firms’ value.
The legality of AgriCon Agua’s prehistoric meat rearing and sales has always been a point of contention under international law. The company that developed replicants of dinosaurs and other ancient wonders for its theme parks, InGen, maintains that it only sold the genetic details and cloning techniques to the food conglomerate in August 2017 on the understanding that they would be used for purely experimental purposes. ACA argue publicly that the contract clearly forbade only the use of prehistoric animal replicants (PARs) for entertainment and filmographic purposes.
ACA’s stocks have long been protected thanks to the location of their headquarters in Dublin, allowing them to resist InGen’s attempts to sue by appealing to European Union protections. However, reports suggest that ACA has agreed to a preliminary arbitration, perhaps due to the growing number of other unresolved pressures. Press releases from both companies give little away, InGen merely stating that they ‘hope this matter can be concluded with the urgency and common sense it deserves’. Although still in early stages, the implication is that ACA will agree to a large settlement reflecting its un-anticipated profits and excessive use of animal DNA technologies.
As a result, ACA opened the day at a six-month low of 104.76, (-2.19%). InGen also suffered – Bloomberg’s analysis argues this shows long term investors were counting on an imminent victory or comprehensive reinstatement of InGen’s IP privileges. This was never likely, but would have allowed the entertainment company to effectively inherit the PAR meat industry as a global monopoly.
This development rounds off a difficult year for ACA. The company is under threat due to resurgent fears from Green activists over the ethics and safety of PAR meat, and rumours that their R&D department is developing a training programme for Utahraptors to act as highly exotic ‘guard dogs’ for the global elite. The Times also revealed a leaked document last week, apparently genuine, suggesting there have been high level preliminary discussions between ACA and the FBI over the use of unspecified prehistoric animals for emergency riot policing and crowd control. Although the FBI and State Department strenuously deny these rumours, they still add to a climate of suspicion around all prehistoric activity outside InGen’s parks.
ACA stocks had been on a high plateau for the last three years after the spectacular popularity of ‘dino-meat’, helped not a little by the complex marketing strategy laid out by the CooperKnudtsen Agency. The advertising firm headed by Birgitte Mbele opted to aggressively pitch different PAR meats at diverse demographics. Thus we see how plesiosaur is packaged as the ethical choice – the animals enjoying free range of a guarded sea off Mauritania; how prime carnivore cuts are gobbled up with celebrity endorsements; and how flying lizard can be found in supermarkets as a treat alternative to chicken. Battery brachiosaurus is the world’s cheapest lean meat. Fresh icthyosaur has become a favourite in ‘fusion sushi’, decried by most traditionalists in Japan but adopted across the West.
Indeed, dino remains the zeitgeist. See for example the use of stegosaur spine-plates as actual platters in Michelin restaurants like Jean-Pierre Bleue’s Agée. Stegosaur burgers are an apparent bestseller – ‘outrageously gamey’ gushed one reviewer. It follows that ACA’s board, collectively worth over $16.3bn, will be keen to resolve their current disputes and focus on sales before the novelty of PAR produce wears off.
This is the driving force behind the new arbitration since protracted bad headlines also threaten InGen’s long term projections. Minority shareholders at their last AGM suggested a third park should be built on the American mainland, favouring Florida, to create an attraction more accessible (more ‘weekend-awayable’) than the Costa Rica and Hawaii resorts. It is difficult to see how a mainland park would be permitted as long as today’s fearful atmosphere lasts, however extreme InGen’s security plans.
As with internet music or electronic cigarettes, global trade standards bodies are still struggling to catch up with, and define regulation for, PAR goods. This does not only concern the World Health Organization’s interest in the dodgy diplodocus kebab you got last Friday (Kosher? Halal?), but defies industry-standard tariff definitions and poses questions of organised crime. A black market has grown in various teeth, ground triceratops horn, ankylosaurus clubs etc. Carnivorous PARs grown for meat typically have their teeth removed at the end of their adolescent growth stage under heavy tranquiliser. At least two ACA employees from a Danish food processing plant near Aarhus have already been imprisoned for handling stolen goods and dealing in illicit materials, but the prevalence of prohibited prehistoric matter across Southeast Asia indicates a more widespread problem.
ACA’s production methods have been consistently criticised as falling below ‘traditional animal’ ethical standards. For example pteranodon and quetzalcoatlas, the two flying lizards most viable for white meat production, are prized for the quality of their breast and shoulder cuts. Like chickens their wings are clipped shortly after birth to keep the muscles being exerted and toughening. However unlike chickens, expert consensus agrees the pterosaurs’ wing membranes contain a complex web of nerves, meaning such clipping amounts to inhumane mutilation. Extreme growth hormones and genetic agitation used first in the amusement parks mean such meat is less efficient (has a larger carbon footprint) than battery chicken but is better than traditional red meats.
Last March the treatment of prehistoric animals being bred for consumption was revealed by an undercover activist from Friends of the Ancients, a new dinosaur rights group affiliated to PETA and Greenpeace. The group counts prominent New Zealand philosopher Petyr Warble among its members. ACA protest that their methods are transparent and in keeping with industry good practice, but a Friends of the Ancients spokeswoman told us: “We’ve known for months now that toothless tyrannosaurs are being kept indoors 24/7, chained down to pallets, force-fed a gruel consisting of offal deemed unfit for human consumption, lentils, chickpeas and milk. Their thighs and tails are unnaturally large, grotesque – they can barely balance. It’s a simply intolerable way to treat any living animal, let alone one with the dignity of ruling the world for millions of years. Imagine if we did this to lions – nobody would stand for it.”
This last assertion is not entirely true, however. Across national parks in Africa and southern Asia, legal hunting and unlicensed poaching have seen serious spikes in activity. In the words of one man arrested in Namunyak, Kenya, “It should no longer be prohibited to hunt these animals, because there is no longer danger they will go extinct.” This is an argument found across the debate – the Kenyan and Botswanan governments are in talks with InGen to explore the synthetic growth of ivory tusks to reduce demand for actual poaching, while cultural conservationist Shi Miuji contends endangered species should be replicated and reintroduced into sheltered areas to protect the regions’ ecosystems and local peoples’ traditions. Britain’s King William, a noted anti-poaching figure, disagrees: “It is right that the EU and FDA are seeking to pre-emptively ban laboratory-grown ivory. This idea of ‘resetting’ species is utterly blunt and irresponsible, like a toddler breaking his favourite toy then demanding a new one, forever.” InGen refused to comment.
Beyond all of this, smaller companies in both the food and entertainment industries are lobbying for PAR patents to be revoked, or at least submitted to universities for study. ACA and InGen look to retain their joint control of prehistoric material for the foreseeable future, but investors will be anxious that their legal case can be resolved bloodlessly, allowing both giants to turn to their internal problems.
Jonathan Lindsell is our Speculative Products Correspondent.