Senior Assistant General Counsel, IP & Licensing
Bayer Crop Science
Jamie Davis headed for the field as soon as he earned his chemical engineering degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Davis’ first job out of college led him to become a project engineer at a Kentucky site that processed uranium fuel for Lockheed Martin. The position entailed environmental and chemical engineering, as well as lots of meetings with lawyers. Davis soon realized that many of the lawyers he worked with lacked strong scientific backgrounds, and his own would give him an advantage as an attorney.
Coincidentally, he and his wife also took a one-year anniversary trip to Vermont, where he toured Vermont Law School, renowned for its environmental law program.
“I fell in love with Vermont and law school at the same time,” Davis said. “I thought ‘Hey, if I flunk out of law school, at least I get to spend three years in Vermont.’”
An adviser in the law school’s career office suggested that intellectual property law might be a good fit for him. After graduation, Davis and his wife returned to his hometown of St. Louis, where he worked for Senniger Powers, then at Harness, Dickey & Pierce. He did both litigation and patent law, and often his major client was Monsanto.
In 2007, Davis made the switch to the St. Louis-based corporation, but he wondered if he would miss the variety of working in a law firm. The trade-off was that he took a deep dive into the business of Monsanto in a way that he couldn’t as outside counsel.
“Even as much as I thought I understood Monsanto’s business, being their outside counsel for seven or eight years, it was the tip of the iceberg,” Davis said. Going in-house, “the biggest challenge is you think you have one client, but you have lots of clients,” he said.
Davis’ professional house also has gotten bigger. Bayer acquired the company this year for $66 billion. The unit formerly called Monsanto is now Bayer Crop Science, and Davis serves as IP lead for global plant breeding, precision genomics, global supply chain and the Climate Corporation affiliate. In his role, Davis leads a team of four attorneys and eight IP professionals responsible for maintaining the company’s patents in regards to row crops, vegetables, digital agriculture and other areas.
During the acquisition, Davis and his team produced millions of pages of documents for regulatory authorities. Now that the acquisition is finalized, Davis is helping Bayer Crop Science look for more efficient ways of doing business in a rapidly changing marketplace.
“The whole industry has changed. We used to know who the competition was and what they were doing. But the big players have changed quite a bit, and with the venture capitalists, there’s tons of money flowing into the Ag space,” Davis said.
“We have the challenge of feeding the world by 2050, and that’s the long-range goal,” he added. “But currently we have to integrate this business and not slow down.”
Davis knows his employer can generate controversy. Monsanto garnered disapproval by critics of genetic modifications of crops and the company’s pesticide products. However, Davis said he believes the company is at the forefront of sustainably improving the food supply.
“The passion of the scientists and the mission to feed the world and do it sustainably is really what you feel inside the company,” he said. “The external stuff used to be really confusing to us. Why are we getting bashed when we’re probably the most sustainable company in the world?
“The focus for the last five years has been trying to be out in front of that,” he said. “Hopefully with Bayer, we can change that narrative.”
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