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Delhi HC Upholds Revocation of PepsiCo India’s IPR for Potato Variety (FL 2027)

Context:

The Delhi High Court recently upheld the decision made by made by Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA) regarding the revocation of PepsiCo India’s intellectual property protection for a potato variety (FL 2027).

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. FL 2027 Potato Variety Case
  2. Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA)
  3. Few notable cases involving patent infringement issues with foreign companies in India

FL 2027 Potato Variety Case

The FL 2027 potato variety case revolves around PepsiCo’s application for the registration and protection of FL 2027 as a potato variety for chip production in India. Here are the key points:

  • FL 2027 is a potato variety developed by Frito-Lay Agricultural Research specifically for chip manufacturing by PepsiCo’s Lay’s brand.
  • It possesses qualities such as high dry matter, low sugar content, and lower moisture content, which make it suitable for chip production.
  • PepsiCo India Holdings was initially granted a certificate of registration for FL 2027 as an “extant variety” in 2016 by PPVFRA.
  • The certificate allowed PepsiCo exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, and distribute FL 2027 for a period of 6 years, extendable up to 15 years.
  • However, PepsiCo had applied for the registration of FL 2027 as a “new variety,” which required meeting additional criteria, including novelty.
  • FL 2027 did not meet the criterion of novelty as it had already been commercialized in Chile in 2002, contrary to the information provided by PepsiCo.
  • Due to the incorrect information and failure to meet the criteria for a “new variety,” PPVFRA revoked the protection in December 2021 and rejected PepsiCo’s application for renewal in February 2022.
  • PepsiCo challenged PPVFRA’s decision in the Delhi High Court.
  • The Delhi High Court upheld the revocation of intellectual property protection, stating that PepsiCo had wrongly applied for registration as a “new variety” and provided incorrect information about the first commercialization date.

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA)

  • Created as a Statutory body by an act of Parliament
  • Works under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
  • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority was established on 11 November 2005 to implement the provisions of the PPV&FR Act, 2001.

Objective of the PPV&FR Act, 2001:

  • Establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties
  • Recognize the rights of farmers and plant breeders
  • Encourage the development of new plant varieties
Key Features of the Legislation:
  • Adoption of a sui generis system for plant variety protection
  • Recognizes the contributions of commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity
  • Implements Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) in a manner that supports socio-economic interests of all stakeholders
  • Includes provisions to benefit private and public sectors, research institutions, and resource-constrained farmers
Composition of the Authority:
  • Chairperson as the Chief Executive
  • 15 members, including ex-officio members from various Departments/Ministries, representatives from State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), State Governments, farmers, tribal organizations, seed industry, and women organizations associated with agriculture
  • Registrar General as the ex-officio Member Secretary

Functions of the Authority:

  • Registration of new plant varieties, essentially derived varieties (EDV), and extant varieties
  • Development of Distinctiveness, Uniformity, and Stability (DUS) test guidelines for new plant species
  • Characterization and documentation of registered varieties
  • Compulsory cataloguing facilities for all plant varieties
  • Documentation, indexing, and cataloguing of farmers’ varieties
  • Recognition and rewarding of farmers and communities engaged in conservation and improvement
  • Preservation of plant genetic resources and maintenance of the National Gene Bank
  • Maintenance of the National Register of Plant Varieties

Few notable cases involving patent infringement issues with foreign companies in India

  • Monsanto vs. Nuziveedu Seeds: This case involved a patent infringement suit by Monsanto against Nuziveedu Seeds, an Indian seed company, for using Monsanto’s Bt cotton technology without paying royalties. The parties settled the dispute through arbitration in 2017.
  • Novartis vs. Union of India: This case revolved around Novartis’ patent application for the anti-cancer drug Glivec. The Indian Patent Office and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board rejected the application, and the Supreme Court of India upheld the rejection in 2013.
  • Ericsson vs. Micromax: This case involved a patent infringement suit by Ericsson against Micromax, an Indian mobile phone manufacturer, for using Ericsson’s standard essential patents (SEPs) related to 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies without obtaining a license. The parties settled the dispute through mediation in 2014.

-Source: Indian Express


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