The Delhi High Court’s Division Bench (“DB”) has reinstated registration for a specific
potato variety (FL 2027) in the name of PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd., (“PepsiCo”) used in production of potato chips, under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (“Act”). following an appeal by PepsiCo.
The Single Judge has initially revoked PepsiCo’s registration under Section 34 of the Act, based on an application by Kavitha Kuruganti (“Respondent”) on the grounds that PepsiCo's lawsuits against farmers is not in public interest and providing incorrect information about the variety's first sale and category (under “New” instead of “Extant”) during the process of registration.
PepsiCo appealed the revocation of protection under Section 34 of the Act, arguing that it should only apply in cases of fundamental, deliberate, or intentional registration eligibility errors. PepsiCo also argued that the enforcement of plant variety rights against farmers does not violate public interest, making the revocation meritless.
The Respondent argued that a valid registration certificate from PepsiCo at the time of the lawsuits is not a defence, as section 39 of the Act prohibits farmers from being sued, regardless of registration certificate. Respondent highlighted that FL 2027 is a new variety, not an “extant” variety, which persists even after the revised application was submitted. The Respondent also argued that the appellant failed to provide documentary proof of assignment and that the failure to renew registration renders the appeal ineffective.
The DB, agreeing with PepsiCo ruled that plant variety cannot be revoked on grounds not related to its validity and protectability. They highlighted those discrepancies in the application, such as the date of first sale, authorization to file, and wrongful entry, are not fatal to the plant variety’s registration, as they were not intentional. The DB, however, agreed with the single-judge’s finding that the mistake of describing FL 2027 as a “new” category was remediable and again not fatal to the cause, as the Registrar had processed it as relating to the “extant” category. The renewal application by the Appellant will stand restored on the Registrar’s file. The DB clarified that filing lawsuits to enforce plant variety against farmers is not a violation of public interest.
Judgement Docs can be accessed here, https://shorturl.at/bvGLS
PepsiCO India Holdings Pvt Ltd v. Kavitha Kuruganti [LPA 590/2023 & CM APPL. 42282/2023, Delhi High Court, Decision on 9 January, 2024]