POTATO PATENT CASE
Copyright infringement not intended
Context: The Delhi High Court confirmed the decision of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA) to cancel the intellectual property protection that was given to PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd for a potato variety that it had developed.
- The court agreed with the PPVFRA that PepsiCo had failed to disclose the source of the genetic material used in developing the potato variety and had violated the provisions of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001.
- The court also noted that PepsiCo had not complied with the benefit-sharing obligations under the Act and had tried to restrict the rights of farmers to save, use, exchange or sell the seeds of the potato variety.
What is the case about?
- The case revolves around FL 2027, a special kind of potato that has low moisture and sugar levels, making it ideal for producing chips. Unlike regular potatoes, which lose water and consume more energy during processing, and turn dark when fried due to high sugar content, FL 2027 can retain its quality and colour.
- FL 2027 was created in 1996 by Robert W Hoopes, a potato breeder who worked for Frito-Lay Agricultural Research, a part of PepsiCo Inc. The company has been using this variety to make potato chips for its Lay’s brand, which are grown by around 14,000 contract farmers in India who sell their produce to PepsiCo at pre-determined prices.
- PepsiCo India Holdings, the Indian arm of the US-based multinational, obtained a registration certificate for FL 2027 as an “extant variety” on February 1, 2016. This meant that for six years from the date of registration, which could be extended up to 15 years, no one else could grow, sell, market, distribute, import or export this variety without the permission of the breeder.
Origin of the issue
- The PPVFRA, which had previously approved FL 2027, a variety of potatoes developed by PepsiCo India, withdrew its approval on December 3, 2021. The authority also denied PepsiCo India's request to renew its registration on February 11, 2022.
- PepsiCo India appealed against the decisions in the Delhi High Court. However, the court ruled in favour of the PPVFRA. Justice Navin Chawla, who presided over the case, said he did not find any reason to overturn the PPVFRA's order.
Why approval was cancelled?
- The reason for cancelling the registration of FL 2027 was that PepsiCo had violated the rules for applying as a “new variety”. According to the law, a “new variety” must not have been sold in India more than one year before the date of application.
- PepsiCo had applied for FL 2027 as a “new variety” on February 16, 2012, but it had already sold it in India since December 17, 2009.
- PepsiCo had not disclosed that FL 2027 was not a new variety at all, but an “extant variety” that had been sold in Chile since 2002. An “extant variety” only needs to meet the standards of distinctiveness, uniformity and stability, not novelty.
- PepsiCo had provided false information to get the registration certificate for FL 2027, which was against the law.
- The court did not rule out the possibility of PepsiCo getting protection for its FL 2027 potato variety. It only said that PepsiCo had made a mistake by registering it as a "new variety" and giving the wrong date for its first commercialisation.
- The applicant has to disclose all the details of his invention or development to get protection for a plant variety. This is similar to the Patents Act, which also gives a monopoly in exchange for complete disclosure, the court said.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR): https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/intellectual-property-rights-ipr
Q. The term “FL 2027” was frequently seen in the news, it is related to;
B) Viral disease
C) Potato Variety
D) Defense Plan