Legal row between farmers and PepsiCo

Context: Recently, the Delhi High Court held that there was no merit in the appeal filed by PepsiCo over the patent rights for its unique potato variety. About the case
  • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights’ Authority (PPVFRA) revoked PepsiCo’s registration with respect to its potato plant variety, ‘FL 2027’ (used in Lay’s chips)
  • Revocation was on the grounds provided under Section 34 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 (PPV&FR). 
FL 2027
  • It is a ‘chipping potato’ variety with low external defects, high dry matter/high solids content and stable sugars, all of which make it highly suitable for the manufacture of chips.
  • According to the appellant, it was developed in the U.S. and a certificate of registration was granted to PepsiCo India in 2016, conferring it an exclusionary right to market, sell, import, export or distribute FL 2027 for a period of six years.
What is the PPV&FR Act?
  • The Act provides an effective framework to conserve and encourage the development of various plant varieties.
  • It established an effective system to safeguard and recognise the rights of breeders, researchers and farmers to promote agricultural development in the country.
  • It also ensures the availability of high quality seeds and planting materials to farmers.
  • The validity period – during which nobody else could commercially produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export it without the breeder’s authorisation – was six years from the date of registration and extendable up to 15 years.
Grounds for revocation under Section 34 of the PPV&FR Act
  • The grant of a registration certificate is based on incorrect information furnished by the applicant
  • The registration certificate was granted to an ineligible person
  • When the breeder does not provide the registrar with the required documents
  • Failure to provide an alternative denomination for variety registration in case the earlier variety provided is not permissible for registration
  • Failure of the breeder to provide the required seeds for compulsory license
  • Failure to comply with the acts, rules, regulations directions issued by the Authority
  • If the grant of the registration certificate is against public interest
Reason to reject the appeal
  • Court found incorrect information furnished by PepsiCo which is a ground of revocation under Section 34(a).
  • PepsiCo had sought the registration of FL 2027 variety as a “new variant” instead of an “extant variant” in its application. Period of Protection was valid for 6 years till 2022
  • However, to be registered as a new variant an additional requirement of ‘novelty’ in addition to ‘distinctiveness’, ‘uniformity’ and ‘stability’ must be satisfied one year before the date of filing of the application for registration.
  • The court held that FL 2027 could not fulfill the criteria of novelty and was only eligible for registration under extant variety.
What is the new variety and extant variety? 
  • New variety: A new variety had to conform to the criterion of novelty. That required the propagated or harvested material from it not to have been sold in India earlier than one year before the date of filing the application for registration.
  • Extant variety: It is a variety that could satisfy only the criteria of distinctiveness, uniformity and stability, but not novelty.
News Source: The Hindu

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