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PepsiCo patents issue:

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: IPR related issues.

 

Context:

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Authority has revoked a PVP (Plant Variety Protection) certificate granted to PepsiCo India Holding (PIH) on a potato variety (FL-2027) on various grounds.

This included the following:

  • The grant of the certificate of registration had been based on incorrect information furnished by the applicant.
  • The certificate had been granted to a person not eligible for protection.
  • The grant of the certificate of registration was not in the public interest.

 

What’s the issue?

In 2019, PepsiCo sued some Indian farmers based in Gujarat for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, which has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips.

  • Withdrawing the lawsuits the same year, the New York-based company said it wanted to settle the issue amicably.
  • Later, Kavitha Kuruganti, a farmers’ rights activist, petitioned the PPVFR Authority for revocation of intellectual protection granted to PepsiCo’s FC5 potato variety, saying that India’s rules do not allow a patent on seed varieties.

Please note that Section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act,2001 specifically says that a farmer is allowed to grow and sell any variety of crop or even seed as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties.

 

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001:

  • Enacted by India in 2001 adopting sui generis system.
  • It is in conformity with International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978.
  • The legislation recognizes the contributions of both commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity and also provides to implement TRIPs in a way that supports the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders including private, public sectors and research institutions, as well as resource-constrained farmers.

 

Objectives of the PPV & FR Act, 2001:

  • To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plants.
  • To recognize and protect the rights of farmers in respect of their contributions made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant varieties.
  • To accelerate agricultural development in the country, protect plant breeders’ rights; stimulate investment for research and development both in public & private sector for the development new of plant varieties.
  • Facilitate the growth of seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.

 

Rights under the Act:

Breeders’ Rights: Breeders will have exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the protected variety. Breeder can appoint agent/ licensee and may exercise for civil remedy in case of infringement of rights.

Researchers’ Rights: Researcher can use any of the registered variety under the Act for conducting experiment or research. This includes the use of a variety as an initial source of variety for the purpose of developing another variety but repeated use needs prior permission of the registered breeder.

Farmers’ Rights:

  1. A farmer who has evolved or developed a new variety is entitled for registration and protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety;
  2. Farmers variety can also be registered as an extant variety;
  3. A farmer can save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act provided farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001;
  4. Farmers are eligible for recognition and rewards for the conservation of Plant Genetic Resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants;
  5. There is also a provision for compensation to the farmers for non-performance of variety under Section 39 (2) of the Act, 2001 and
  6. Farmer shall not be liable to pay any fee in any proceeding before the Authority or Registrar or the Tribunal or the High Court under the Act.

 

Try this Question- UPSC CSE 2020:

Consider the following statements:

  1. According to the Indian Patents Act, a biological process to create a seed can be patented in India.
  2. In India, there is no Intellectual Property Appellate Board.
  3. Plant varieties are not eligible to be patented in India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Sources: the Hindu.