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‘Big Victory For Farmers’: Indian court rejects PepsiCo’s appeal on Potato Patent

In 2021, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights (PPVFR) Authority invalidated PepsiCo's previously granted intellectual property protection for the FC5 potato variety.

New Delhi, July 09:   The Delhi High Court in India has dismissed PepsiCo Inc’s appeal against the revocation of its patent for the FC5 potato variety, grown exclusively for famous Lay’s potato chips.

The court’s decision is being celebrated as a significant victory for farmers and their rights.

In 2021, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Authority invalidated PepsiCo’s previously granted intellectual property protection for the FC5 potato variety.

This specific variety, known for its lower moisture content, is highly suitable for the production of well-liked snacks such as potato chips.

The authority stated that ‘Indian regulations do not allow patents on seed varieties’.

PepsiCo, headquartered in New York, challenged the authority’s ruling by filing an appeal with the Delhi High Court.

However, in order on July 05, Presiding Judge Navin Chawla dismissed the appeal, upholding the authority’s decision.

Having established its first potato chip plant in India back in 1989, PepsiCo gave FC5 seeds to a group of farmers who exclusively grow the variety for the company. These farmers sell their produce to PepsiCo at a fixed price.

The multinational corporation asserts that it independently developed and registered the FC5 variety in India in 2016.

In 2019, PepsiCo made headlines when it sued several farmers in Gujarat state for allegedly infringing upon its patent by cultivating the FC5 potato variety.

The company sought more than 1 crore rupees ($121,050) from each accused farmer. However, within months, PepsiCo withdrew the lawsuits against the farmers.

Following this incident, Kavitha Kuruganti, a prominent farmers’ rights activist, petitioned the PPVFR Authority to revoke the intellectual property protection granted to PepsiCo’s FC5 potato variety. Kuruganti argued that India’s rules do not permit patents on seed varieties.

Subsequently, the authority accepted the farmers’ arguments and canceled PepsiCo’s patent.

The ruling by the Delhi High Court has been widely praised, particularly by potato farmers in Gujarat, who see it as a significant victory for their rights.

This decision reaffirms the farmers’ freedom to cultivate any crop they choose.

PepsiCo’s case is not the first instance of a major U.S. company involvement in patent infringement issues in India.

Following a protracted intellectual property dispute, genetically modified cotton seed manufacturer Monsanto withdrew from certain operations in the country.

This recent judgment serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting farmers’ rights and upholding regulations pertaining to seed varieties.

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