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Willing to grant licenses to farmers: PepsiCo submits in potato infringement suit

Willing to grant licenses to farmers: PepsiCo submits in potato infringement suit

Aditya AK

In its controversial infringement suit filed before the Ahmedabad City Civil Court, PepsiCo India Holdings today submitted that it was willing to grant four farmers licenses to grow the potatoes used in the manufacture of its Lays chips.

PepsiCo had filed a suit seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the four farmers from infringing its plant variety. It had also sought an ad-interim injunction and damages of Rs. 1.05 crore from each of the four farmers.

It is PepsiCo’s case that it is the registered breeder of the potato plant variety ‘FL 2027’ (commercial name FC­5), used in the manufacture of its Lays potato chips. It contended before the court that its statutory rights under Sections 64 and 65 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 were being violated by the farmers.

The company had earlier granted licenses to some farmers to bring potatoes of the said variety on the buy­back system. In January 2019, it found out that the respondents had started the production of the variety used in Lays potato chips.

This was proven after samples collected from the respondents’ premises were sent for testing to a laboratory in Shimla. The lab found that the DNA of the samples collected matched the DNA of PepsiCo’s potato variety.

In court today, Anand Yagnik appeared on behalf of the farmers. He submitted that he would file a written statement and sought time for the same.

Counsel for PepsiCo submitted that the company was willing to enter into license agreements with the farmers so that they may use its plant variety, and that it was not keen on pursuing the damages sought in the plaint.

The case was thus adjourned, and the interim injunction granted in favour of PepsiCo was extended till the next date of hearing.

On April 6, the court of Judge Moolchand Tyagi decided to grant interim relief in favour of PepsiCo. The order states,

“At this stage, it appears that the plaintiff has primafacie case in its favour. The balance of convenience also lies in favour of the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is not granted the ad­interim injunction, then the plaintiff would suffer irreparable loss. At this stage, if the ad­interim injunction is not granted in favour of the plaintiff, then the delay would defeat the justice.”

Therefore, notice was issued and the matter was posted for today.

PepsiCo’s infringement suit against four Gujarat farmers had sparked a furore, with farmers unions and activists criticising the company that owns the Pepsi and Lays brands.

Read the April 8 order: