The largest agriculture machinery company in the world was hit with federal antitrust claims this week over the right to repair the software on the company’s equipment.
Bloomberg News reported that the lawsuit alleges an illegal “tying” arrangement. It accuses the John Deere tractor maker of prohibiting its “highly consolidated” dealership network from selling “crucial” proprietary software tools to farmers or repair shops unaffiliated with the manufacturer.
Deere “has deliberately made this necessary software unavailable” to head off competition in the lucrative repair market, which is “three to six times more profitable” than original equipment sales, according to the proposed class action filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The company “continues to exploit its relationship with customers who have purchased extremely expensive tractors, locking customers into paying for expensive and inconvenient repair services from Deere and its dealerships,” the suit said.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Forest River Farms, a corporation located in Forest River, North Dakota. The farm owns at least five John Deere tractors and two John Deere combines.
According to the complaint, farmers “traditionally and historically” had the right and ability to fix their own tractors, before they became so “technologically complex” and “intertwined” with operating software that specialized repair tools became necessary.
The suit seeks an order “dismantling” Deere’s “illegal monopoly.”
Deere did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Bloomberg Law.]