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PepsiCo secures the contested right to patent Lay’s potato chips

PepsiCo secures the contested right to patent Lay's potato chips Commodities, Emerging Markets, Farmers, India, Ingredients, Intellectual property, Manufacturers, Markets, Patent, PepsiCo, PepsiCo Frito-Lay, Potato, Processing & Packaging, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights, R&D, Regulation & Safety, snacks Food and Beverage Business

PepsiCo has finally obtained a patent for a special Solanum tuberosum (potato) variety after the Delhi High Court overturned a judge’s decision to uphold the patent’s revocation in 2021. The decision was in response to a case involving PepsiCo and India’s potato farmers, and the patent in question is for PepsiCo’s FC5 varietal.

In 1999, PepsiCo established a tissue culture and mini-tuber facility in Zahura, Punjab, to develop seeds of its own potato varietals. The FC5, or FL2027, was commercialized in 2009 and is known for its low water content, making it ideal for potato chip processing. The company was granted intellectual property (IP) rights for the varietal under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act in 2016. PepsiCo also established a partnership network with local farmers, providing them with FC5 seeds under a legal agreement to sell the crop exclusively to the company for its Lay’s chips.

However, in April 2019, PepsiCo filed a lawsuit against four farmers for allegedly cultivating the potato illegally. This move sparked backlash from the farming community, as the farmers claimed to be unaware of any wrongdoing. Following significant public pressure, PepsiCo withdrew the cases against the farmers.

In 2021, activist Kavitha Kuruganti submitted a petition to the PPV&FR Authority for the withdrawal of IP rights granted to the FC5. Her argument was that India’s rules do not allow a patent on seed varieties. The Authority agreed and cancelled the certificate of registration, but PepsiCo countered with a petition against the revocation of the patent cover, setting off a legal battle that reached the Delhi High Court.

The court ultimately sided with PepsiCo, overturning the Authority’s decision to cancel the certificate of registration. The decision was based on a technicality regarding the originality of the potato variety, ultimately allowing PepsiCo to pursue its patent for the FC5 varietal.

The legal battle between PepsiCo and the potato farmers highlights the challenges and controversies surrounding food and beverage industry trends, food manufacturing, processing technology, and food distribution. As the case continues to unfold, it underscores the importance of regulations, sustainability, consumer trends, and the complexities of patenting food and drink innovations.

This ruling has implications for food and drink industry innovation, sustainability, regulations, packaging, marketing, and consumer trends, and its outcome will undoubtedly shape the future of intellectual property rights in the food and beverage sector.

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