Dow Chemical Patents: From Genetically Modified Organisms to Construction Barrier Films

By Steve Brachmann
November 16, 2014

The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) of Midland, MI, is one of the world’s largest developers and manufacturers of chemicals produced for industrial and commercial products. Dow Chemical has been recently experiencing a good deal of growth in its petrochemical businesses caused by large increases in North America shale fracking. At the end of October, Dow’s third quarter earnings report was higher than expected, which was owed mainly to cost reductions for raw materials like propylene and strong corporate operations for the production of ethylene, a feedstock plastic that is important for the development of a wide range of products. Dow CEO Andrew Liveris expects earnings at Dow AgroSciences to double within the decade thanks to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval of the Enlist Duo weed killer specifically made for use with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

A look into the recently published patent applications assigned to Dow from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization shows us that GMOs and herbicides have been a major area of focus for Dow and Dow AgroSciences, its chief subsidiary in agricultural chemical engineering. Plastics used for packing fragile items or for providing a barrier between soil and building foundations in construction projects.

The patent portfolio of Dow has also been increasing recently, incorporating chemical engineering innovations designed for a wide range of industrial sectors. One patent protects a method of developing fragrances for laundry detergents which evaporate less quickly, helping clothes to retain a fragrance for a longer period of time. Oil-in-water emulsions were the focus of a number of patents which we decided to share today, including one discussing a herbicidal composition for agricultural uses. Another patent we noticed protects a topically-applied pharmaceutical drug designed to treat bacterial infections or acne rosacea.

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Dow Chemical’s Patent Applications: From Genetically Modified Organisms to Construction Barrier Films

Dow maintains a very strong focus on research and development in its corporate operations, and the company currently boasts an R&D team of more than 5,000 professionals worldwide, including more than 3,700 here in North America. The company and its subsidiaries are responsible for a large amount of innovation in fields of chemical engineering. The company’s joint venture with Corning, Dow Corning, recently won an innovation award from European consumer science organization SEPAWA for a more commercially acceptable emulsifier for beauty and personal care compositions.

Innovations regarding genetically modified organisms made up a fair portion of the patent applications which caught our eyes during this survey of Dow’s R&D activities. The detection of GMOs to determine unauthorized use of the material or its safety is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140287407, entitled System and Method for Analysis of Plant Material for a Set of Unique Exogenous Genetic Elements. The patent application would protect a method of identifying any of a number of heterologous nucleic acids in a sample of plant DNA through the use of oligonucleotides. The new detection method is designed to be more cost-effective for GMO detection, especially for instances where multiple GMOs are stacked within a single plant. Methods of DNA detection in use with GMOs are also the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140298547, which is titled DNA Detection Methods for Site Specific Nuclease Activity. This patent application claims a method for identifying the presence of an exogenous donor DNA polynucleotide which utilizes an amplification reaction that also involves oligonucleotides. This DNA detection technology is intended to improve the effectiveness of conventional methods of finding genomic loci within plants to induce mutagenesis or delete certain DNA sequences.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140283197, which is titled “Soybean Markers Linked to Phytophthora Resistance.”

We noticed a trio of patent applications related to the control of weeds and pests for agriculture and other purposes which we wanted to share with our readers. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140274708, filed under the title Method for Control of Brush and Woody Weed Species, would protect an innovative herbicide for the control of undesired vegetation. The patent application discloses a method comprising the basal application of a herbicidally-effective amount of a composition including triclopyr butoxyethyl ester, picloram-isoocytl ester and glycerine. The invention is intended to control broad-leaved weeds in grasslands, industrial areas and rights-of-way to encourage grasses and wildflowers to grow. An invention regarding an insecticide which targets a broad spectrum of insect pests is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140275407, entitled Molecules Having Certain Pesticidal Utilities, and Intermediates, Compositions, and Processes Related Thereto. This patent application would protect a composition that is pesticidally effective against pests in the phyla Nematoda, Anthropoda and Mollusca. The composition would be effective against ants, beetles, cockroaches, earwigs, fleas, flies, grasshoppers, lice, mites, ticks and wasps. We were also intrigued by an invention to determine a plant’s resistance to certain diseases which was outlined in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140283197, which is titled Soybean Markers Linked to Phytophthora Resistance. The method that would be protected by this patent application determines the phytophthora-resistant characteristics of a soybean plant by isolating and screening nucleic acid molecules. This technology is designed to address one of the greatest pest concerns to soybean plants, one of the world’s most major economic crops and a plant of growing importance as a food source.

There were a couple of inventions involving the development and manufacture of plastic films with enhanced physical strength and other properties which caught our eyes today. Thermoplastic films and liners meant to reduce impact damage on materials which are being transported are at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140308480, which is titled Films With Improved Dart Impact Resistance. The patent application would protect a film comprised of a polyethylene polymer and an organic filler with higher dart impact strength than films without the organic filler. The invented film also achieves a better stiffness, which doesn’t necessarily impact strength but may be more desirable to consumers of plastic products such as trash bags. The creation of a plastic film with greater strength properties is also discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140287215, entitled Film Having Good Barrier Properties Together With Good Physical Characteristics. The monolayer film that would be protected would be comprised of a blend which was composed of linear polyethylene and a linear polyethylene resin. This invention supports the processability of polyethylene resins for the creation of construction barrier films used to separate soil from concrete in building foundations.

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Issued Patents of Note: From Longer-Lasting Detergent Fragrances to Topical Antimicrobial Treatments

This is the first time that we’ve profiled Dow in our Companies We Profile series and we found that the company was very active in its patenting operations. The Dow Chemical Company received 573 patent grants from the USPTO in 2013, placing it 71st overall among all corporations worldwide for that year. It should be noted that we’re also finding a large number of patents and patent applications assigned to various corporate subsidiaries, like Dow AgroSciences, LLC, which focuses on research and development of agricultural chemicals. Recently, Dow AgroSciences successfully defended its patent portfolio in a Federal Circuit court against patent infringement claims for a herbicide-resistant seed that were brought forward by Bayer CropScience AG in March 2012.

From U.S. Patent No. 8839661, which is titled “Direct Quantitative Colorimetric Measurement of Liquid Foam.”

The chemical engineering activities of Dow has allowed it to create novel liquid compositions for industrial or consumer use, a few of which have been recently patent-protected. Methods for creating more effective detergents and soaps for industrial use is at the heart of the invention protected by U.S. Patent No. 8839661, which is titled Direct Quantitative Colorimetric Measurement of Liquid Foam. The patent protects a foaminess characterization method involving a foamable liquid and a test substance which is illuminated and agitated to produce foam. The test is an improvement over prior methods of determining the foaminess of liquid foams or the defoaming capabilities of industrial defoamers. A laundry detergent which imparts a longer-lasting fragrance to clothing is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8859485, entitled Ethylene Acrylic Acid Copolymer Aqueous Dispersions for Fragrance Release in Laundry Detergents. The invention is intended to produce a laundry detergent with encapsulated or otherwise protected fragrances to reduce their evaporability so that there is a higher retention of fragrances in clothing. The patent protects a fabric care composition that includes an aqueous dispersion consisting of an ethylene acrylic acid copolymer, a fragrance and a metallocene catalyzed polyolefin which can be precipitated to form shells around the fragrance.

Emulsifiers for personal care compositions were discussed at the top of our patent application section above, but we found a couple of Dow patents protecting substances and techniques that can produce emulsions for a wide degree of other uses. Oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions used in creating fiber treatment agents, cosmetics, releasing agents and more are discussed in U.S. Patent No. 8835555, issued under the title Method for Producing Emulsion. The emulsion producing method protected by this patent involves the synthesizing a silicone-based surfactant within an oil composed of an organopolysiloxane. The invention is intended to support the production of oils through emulsification which have a much longer storage life. Other oil-in-water emulsions for the prevention of unwanted living organisms to encourage crop growth are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8835357, which is titled Agricultural Compositions Comprising Oil-in-Water Emulsions. The patent protects an oil-in-water emulsion which includes at least one agriculturally-active compound in an oil phase composed of globules which have a mean particle diameter of less than 800 nanometers. The emulsion of this invention is intended to improve on previous oil-in-water emulsion compositions for agricultural applications by reducing viscosity and improving the physical stability of the mixture.

Dow’s research and development also extends into the arena of pharmaceutical development, which we saw reflected in U.S. Patent No. 8877792, titled Compositions for Increasing Solubility of Azole Drug Compounds that are Poorly Suitable in Water. It protects a pharmaceutical composition comprised of water and a small percentage of metronidazole as well as benzyl alcohol, propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol 400. The technology involved in this innovation is designed to support the production of pharmaceutically effective topical compounds including metronidazole. Metronidazole is an antimicrobial drug which can treat various bacterial infections as well as acne rosacea.

From U.S. Patent No. 8845972, which is titled “Process and Apparatus for Efficient Recovery of Dichlorohydrins.”

Finally, we noticed a couple of patents related to novel resins developed by Dow companies to improve the appearance of a variety of products involving coated substrates and similar features. U.S. Patent No. 8845972, which is titled Process and Apparatus for Efficient Recovery of Dichlorohydrins, protects an apparatus suitable for producing dichlorohydrins from multihydroxylated-aliphatic hydrocarbon compounds or esters through a hydrochlorination reactor system, a separation system involving a liquid-vapor contacting device, and number of condensation units. This dichlorohydrin production process is designed to support the production of epichlorohydrin, a precursor to epoxy resins used in automotive topcoats, electrical laminates and other applications.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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