Revocation of registration of potato variety FL 2027 held by Pepsico India and its impact

New potato isolated on white background close up

Background

Lays potato chips, a product of Pepsico, uses FL-2027 variety of potatoes which was introduced in 2009 in India. It came into limelight in April 2019, when Pepsico filed infringement cases against farmers in Gujarat and alleged that nine farmers who are growing and selling this variety in Gujarat are not part of its “collaborative farming programme”. Additionally, filed a lawsuit of Rs.4.2 Cr against four small farmers under the Act. However, widespread protest and boycott threats by political parties and farmers groups, forced Gujarat government to step in and this forced Pepsico to withdraw all cases in May 2019. Following which Ms. Kuruganti filed an application to revoke Pepsico’s registration in June 2019 on the grounds of being against the public interest.

Summary of the final judgement by PPV&FV

On Dec 03, 2021, PPV&FV revoked the registration of potato variety FL 2027 registered in favor of Pepsico India Holdings Private Limited. The revocation application submitted was mainly based on the grounds of providing incorrect information by the applicant, certificate of registration is not valid and that the grant of certificate of registration is not in the public interest. Based on the arguments submitted by the defendant and the facts, on December 03, 2021, the registration of FL 2027 was revoked under Sections 34 (a), (b), (c), and (h) of PPV&FR Act, 2001. Additionally, the registrar was asked to develop a standardized sheet for evaluation of application for registration of plant varieties in accordance with Act, Rules and Regulations.

Opinion

Revocation of the registration certainly made the farmers of India happier, as it allowed them to buy or sell FL 2027, a variety of potato without being the member of the “collaborative farming programme”. This decision as such, if misunderstood, could deter many of the large entities from entering India who might want to bring in new varieties of plants. In this case, the PPV&FR revoked the registration only after it was proven that the defendant may not have submitted all the documents as per the requirements, even after being requested. As alleged in the Revocation Application, it was found that Dr. Robert W Hoopes, who is the breeder of FL 2027, has not validly assigned it to the Assignee (Recot Inc subsequently name changed to Frito-Lay North America (FLNA)). Additionally, it was pointed out that several farmers were put to hardship including the looming possibility of having to pay huge penalty on the purported infringement they were supposed to have been committing which did not eventually happen as on date.

Considering the facts of the case and the evidence, it is evident that the registration of potato variety FL 2027 registered in favor of Pepsico India Holdings Private Limited was revoked as a result of negligence or intentionally trying to mislead the authorities in India. We are of the opinion that after the creation of the standardized sheet by the registrar, instances such as this could be reduced to a large extant. Additionally, this will help the future applicants with easier and streamlined process for registration of their plant variety and will avoid any complications that may arise in future as happened in case of the registration of potato variety FL 2027.

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Best regards – Team InvnTree   

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