PepsiCo sues four Indian farmers for using its patented Lay's potatoes
By Amit Dave and Mayank Bhardwaj
AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc has sued four Indian farmers for cultivating a potato variety that the snack food and drinks maker claims infringes its patent, the company and the growers said on Friday.
Pepsi has sued the farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, grown exclusively for its popular Lay's potato chips. The FC5 variety has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips.
The company is seeking more than 10 million rupees ($142,840) each for alleged patent infringement.
The farmers grow potatoes in the western state of Gujarat, a leading producer of India's most consumed vegetable.
"We have been growing potatoes for a long time and we didn't face this problem ever, as we've mostly been using the seeds saved from one harvest to plant the next year's crop," said Bipin Patel, one of the four farmers sued by Pepsi.
Patel did not say how he came by the PepsiCo variety.
A court in Ahmedabad, the business hub of Gujarat, on Friday agreed to hear the case on June 12, said Anand Yagnik, the farmers' lawyer.
"In this instance, we took judicial recourse against people who were illegally dealing in our registered variety," a PepsiCo India spokesman said.
"This was done to protect our rights and safeguard the larger interest of farmers that are engaged with us and who are using and benefiting from seeds of our registered variety."
PepsiCo, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 potato variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to the company at a fixed price.
The company said the four farmers could join the group of growers who exclusively grow the FC5 variety for its Lay's potato chips.
"PepsiCo India has proposed to amicably settle with the people who were unlawfully using the seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming programme," the company spokesman said in a statement.
If the farmers do not wish to grow the FC5 potato variety for PepsiCo, they can simply sign an agreement with the company to cultivate other available varieties, he added.
The All India Kisan Sabha, or All India Farmers' Forum, has asked the Indian government to protect the farmers.
The forum has also called for a boycott of Lay's chips and PepsiCo's other products.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
PepsiCo is the second large U.S. company to face patent infringement issues in India.
Stung by a long-standing intellectual property dispute, seed maker Monsanto, now owned by German drugmaker Bayer AG, withdrew from some businesses in India over a cotton-seed dispute with farmers, Reuters reported in 2017. (reut.rs/2ncBknn)
($1 = 70.0080 rupees)
BobBob13 hours ago
This is why we DO NOT want patented food. Imagine a bio-corp develops and patents a special type of corn. Then they intentionally but secretly allow some of their seed to be distributed to all the farmers in Iowa through a seed wholesaler. Now all the farmers in Iowa who have even a single stalk of their magic protected corn growing in their field owe them money, or can be forced to join some co-op they control?
Cy Borg8 hours ago
So Pepsi now owns potatoes, and Monsanto owns Corn.
Astroboy12 hours ago
I just filed for a patent on lettuce, celery, carrots, onions and tomatoes. I now own the world. Broooohahahaha.
Ric11 hours ago
OK, potato is native to Peru in S. America.Natural foods nor their seeds should not be patented. Nature has a way to spread seeds, in those scenarios are you gonna sue tje birds who spread your patented seeds.
Anonymous12 hours ago
I have strong objections to considering plants/living organisms as "patents" or intellectual property.
Edward13 hours ago
Sounds more like a shakedown. Let me guess, the PepsiCo farmers are on adjacent land and seed their fields from the air, right? This is similar to Monsanto lawsuits over farmers illegally using their seeds. Genetically modified seed is a huge business these companies go to great lengths to protect their patents.
VincitOmniaVeritas14 hours ago
The real question is how did they get that potato strain …
Trøl?šG?tMût?d13 hours ago
Wow. I'm suing you because you grew the same kind of potatoes I grow for my chips.
Tanya9 hours ago
Thank you Pepsi Co. for verifying that you use Genetically Modified Seeds and Potatoes
QuestionEverything13 hours ago
I'd boycott Lays and Pepsi but I don't but their junk anyhow. How do you patent a vegetable? What if two strains are crossed naturally?
DukeTheSpook13 hours ago
A corporation with a patent on a vegetable...
KonkeyDong10 hours ago
Lays potato chips are potatoes grown in India?
S13 hours ago
Remind me not to buy Lays potato chips again.
Lorraine11 hours ago
I can understand patenting an end product, like chips or soda; I do not understand how anyone can patent a potato!
Micah13 hours ago
Unless it’s for medical purposes, plant and animal DNA should not be patentable because the companies who create these strands and varieties can’t control where they end up. If they think they can sue you even though there varieties end up on your land, you should be able to sue them back for trespass.
Joeschmoe1111 hours ago
Pepsi is taking a page out of the Monsanto book.
My Clone Did it Not me12 hours ago
Well at least they are not burning the crop
Bob11 hours ago
Why isn't Pepsi buying from American farmers should be the question
Joseph11 hours ago
Sorry Pepsi, God owns the patent to all fruits and vegetables.
Sunnydays12 hours ago
How did Pepsi find out they were illegally growing the potato without trespassing on private property?
Anonymous14 hours ago
I doubt that they were going to start their own potato chip company and put Pepsi out of business.....
Speck8 hours ago
Thank you Pepsi for letting me know about your GMO potato chips .
Stephen13 hours ago
Next will people be sued if they have patented grass strains growing in their yard?
Marc12 hours ago
Patented food? How is that even allowed?
Poker18 hours ago
I won’t be buying PepsiCo Products any more!
Vyacheslav11 hours ago
good luck enforcing a patent in india. indian court will say that the patent is invalid or grant compulsory license to the farmers
Show us those tax returns, chump11 hours ago
I thought Mother Nature holds the patent for potatoes?