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Historic Victory for Indian Farmers! PepsiCo Loses Right on their “Lays Chips” Potato Variety

PepsiCo’s patent for a Potato variety (FC 5) that was grown for the Lays Potato chips has been revoked, according to an order issued by the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmer’s Rights Authority.

Sugandh Bhatnagar
Lays Chips
Lays Chips

PepsiCo’s patent for a Potato variety (FC 5) that was grown for the Lays Potato chips has been revoked, according to an order issued by the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmer’s Rights Authority. In 2019, PepsiCo sued some Indian farmers based in the western state of Gujarat for cultivating FC5 potato variety which has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips. 

However, PepsiCo had withdrawn the lawsuit the same year, saying they wanted to settle the issue amicably. 

Later, Kavitha Kuruganthi, a farmers’ rights activist, petitioned the PPVFR Authority for revocation of intellectual protection granted to PepsiCo’s FC 5 potato variety, saying that the government’s rules do not allow a patent on seed varieties. 

As per law “The registrants’ rights are limited to only production of a variety, and not production from a variety. Even when it comes to production of a variety, farmers have rights to produce seed and even sell seed of a protected variety provided it is unbranded.”  

The PPVFR authority questioned the documentation produced by PepsiCo claiming it was the owner of the variety, and thus could be considered the “Registered Breeder” under the law. The authority however, accepted Kuruganthi’s contention that “several Farmers have been put to hardship including the possibility of having to pay huge penalty on the ostensible infringement they were supposed to have been committing. 

PepsiCo maintained that it developed the FC5 Variety of Potato and registered the trait in 2016. The company, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 seed variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their products to the company at a fixed price. 

“The order is a big victory for farmers in India and reaffirms their right to cultivate any crop” said Bipin Patel, one of the farmers sued by Pepsi in 2019. 

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