Mumbai, April 26: PepsiCo has sent legal notice to four farmers in Gujarat for copyright infringement, claiming they have grown and harvested potatoes the company has trademarked for exclusive use in its Lays potato chips.
The company said the four farmers against whom it has filed a legal case are not among the thousands of farmers it has authorised to grow the trademarked potatoes. The case was filed by PepsiCo’s Indian subsidiary PepsiCo India in Gujarat. According to a report in The Hindu, the company has asked the farmers to pay ₹1.05 crore each as damages for ‘infringing its rights’.
Farmers' associations and activists have called on the Indian government to step in and take action against PepsiCo. The farmers want the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA) to make a submission in court on their behalf and fund legal costs through the National Gene Fund. The farmers’ rights to grow and sell trademarked crops are protected under India's agricultural laws, as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties. The law says that a farmer is allowed “to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act” so long as he does not sell “branded seed”.
However, PepsiCo has invoked Section 64 of the same Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 to claim infringement of its rights. The farmers allege that the food and beverage company hired a private detective agency to pose as potential buyers and take secret video footage of their fields, and collect samples from farmers’ fields without disclosing its real intent. Some days later, the farmers received legal notices of copyright infringement. At least nine farmers in three districts in Gujarat have been charged by PepsiCo since 2018.
The next hearing of the case is scheduled to be heard in the Ahmedabad Court on Friday, April 26.