PepsiCo is suing four farmers in India for copyright infringement, claiming they were growing a variety of potatoes trademarked by the company for exclusive use in its Lays potato chips.
Farmers’ associations and activists in India called on the Indian government to step in and take action against PepsiCo.
In a letter to the government published earlier this week and shared with CNN Business, the farmers have said that their rights to grow and sell trademarked crops are protected under India’s agricultural laws.
“We believe that the intimidation and legal harassment of farmers is happening because farmers are not fully aware of [their] rights,” the letter said. The letter also claims PepsiCo sent private detectives to the accused farmers posing as potential buyers, secretly recording video of them and taking samples of the potatoes.
PepsiCo is also being called out for being a foreign company which is trying to take undue advantage of farmers. The hearing of the case is due tomorrow ie 26 April 2019 in Ahmedabad court.
“We took judicial recourse against people who were illegally dealing in our registered variety. This was done to protect our rights and safeguard the larger interest of farmers that are engaged with us and who are using and benefitting from seeds of our registered variety. We remain committed to resolving the matter and ensuring adoption of best farming practices resulting in higher yield and quality,” PepsiCo India spokesperson said.
PepsiCo, which owns brands like Pepsi, Lays, Gatorade and Quaker Oats, is reportedly seeking damages of 10 million rupees ($143,000) from each farmer.
According to the 2001 Act, a farmer is allowed “to save, use, sow, resow, 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’. Meanwhile, PepsiCo cited Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.