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The ‘Farmers’ Rights’ law lays the IPR trap

One day intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the seed sector granted to MNCs would entrap farmers. This is precisely what farmers’ groups and concerned citizens in the country had been warning against, ever since India chose to introduce IPRs through the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001. IPR infringement suits against farmers are just about beginning in India.

What happened?

Last year onward PepsiCo India Holdings (PIH) Pvt. Ltd. has been pursuing legal action against both rival local firm, a cold storage and seed business and four farmers collectively in Gujarat whom it believes are infringing its IPRs. Early this year too it reportedly came across farmers in Gujarat growing its IPR-protected potato varieties. The company employed a private intelligence agency, visit certain farmers’ fields in January and February 2019. It then commenced individual suits to stop four farmers from using its potato plant variety FL 2027 (commercial name FC­5).The company alleges that these farmers have been producing the variety without its permission. According to PIH, this is ‘infringement’ as per Section 64 of the PPV&FR Act.

The suits were filed in early April 2019 in the Commercial Court in Ahmedabad, Gujarat for:

  1. permanent injunction restraining the farmers from using FL 2027 registered under the PPV&FR Act; and
  2. Passing off such products being those of PIH, in violation of the company’s rights over the trademark FC5.

An ex parte ad interim injunction was granted to PIH on 10 April 2019. The farmers have been summoned to appear in court at the next hearing on 26 April 2019.

 Potato Varieties registered under different categories of the PPV&FR Act

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