PepsiCo's Lay's loses rights to special potato variety as India cancels patent
Frito Lay's potato chips lost its rights to a special variety of potatoes that it uses for its products. This happened after India canceled the patent that it previously granted the potato chips maker.
According to Reuters, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights (PPVFR) Authority released an order late last week, and documents showed India had nullified a patent for certain types of potatoes that are being grown for PepsiCo's Frito Lay's potato chip products.
The food and beverage company headquartered in Somers, New York, sued some Indian farmers in 2019. These farmers were based in the western state of Gujarat, and they were sued for farming the FC5 potato variety that was patented by PepsiCo. These potatoes are the type that lower moisture content which makes them perfect for the production of potato chips.
In that same year, PepsiCo dropped the lawsuits and stated that it just want to amicably settle the case. Not long after that, a farmer's rights activist, Kavitha Kuruganti, submitted a petition for the cancellation of PepsiCo's patent to FC5 potatoes. She said that policies in India do not allow seed varieties to be patented.
In reviewing the petition, the PPVFR Authority agreed with Kuruganti's argument that the American company cannot claim a patent over any type of seed. Despite this, PepsiCo maintained it has developed the FC5 potato variety and registered its features in 2016.
PepsiCo built its first potato chips manufacturing factory in India in 1989, and as the potatoes are grown locally, the company supplies the FC5 seed to a group of local farmers who in turn sell their potatoes to PepsiCo at a fixed price. Later, some farmers started growing the FC5 potato variety on their own.
At any rate, as the revocation of PepsiCo's certificate of registration will take effect immediately, the company, its spokesman in India, said: "We are aware of the order passed by the PPVFR Authority and are in the process of reviewing the same."
Meanwhile, Indian farmers from Gujarat have lauded the decision of the PPVFR Authority to revoke PepsiCo's patent over FC5 potatoes that are mainly used for Frito Lay's potato chips. They said the ruling was a victory for all local growers.