PepsiCo Inc said on Thursday that it will withdraw cases it had filed against four potato farmers from Gujarat for allegedly infringing its patent, PTI reported. PepsiCo had sued the farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, which is grown exclusively for its Lay’s potato chips. The company had sought more than Rs 1 crore each for alleged patent infringement.
“After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers,” an unidentified PepsiCo spokesperson said, according to PTI.
PepsiCo had also filed civil suits against five other farmers for Rs 20 lakh each. These lawsuits too will be withdrawn, the company said.
The company spokesperson said PepsiCo filed lawsuits because it wanted to protect the “larger interests of farmers”, The Indian Express reported. “PepsiCo from the very start had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers,” the spokesperson said, adding that following discussions with the state government, the firm will try to find a long term solution to problems related to seed protection.
The Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, a farmers’ rights group, said PepsiCo should pay compensation to the sued farmers. “While we are not aware of the discussions that PepsiCo is referring to and not even with which government ‘it has agreed’ with, we believe that this withdrawal is an acceptance of farmers rights, and this is apt,” ASHA said in a statement. “PepsiCo should have apologised for the intimidation and harassment of farmers in this case, and it should have been penalised for adopting these tactics against farmers.”
During a hearing on April 26 at a commercial court in Ahmedabad, the company had offered to settle the dispute if the farmers gave an undertaking to purchase the specific variety of seeds from the company and sell the potato produced to it. Senior counsel Anand Yagnik, who appeared for the four farmers of Sabarkantha district, told the court that he will discuss the proposal with the farmers and inform the court about the outcome during the next hearing on June 12.