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PepsiCo sues Indian farmers for growing trademark potatoes

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Farmers’ organisations in India said on Friday that they were providing legal help to farmers sued by food and beverages major PepsiCo for allegedly growing a variety of potatoes.

The potatoes were trademarked by the company and used to make chips.

PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd. filed lawsuits against nine farmers from Gujarat State demanding 142,000 to 285,000 dollars from each, alleging infringement of its trademark rights, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (Indian farmers association) Vice-president Ambalal Patel said.

PepsiCo said the farmers had been found to be growing without the company’s permission a variety of potatoes for which it owns the trademark and uses to manufacture its Lays brand of chips.

Cases against four farmers came up for hearing in a commercial court in the Gujarat city of Ahmedabad on Friday.

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“PepsiCo said in court today that it wanted to settle the dispute and has made a proposal that will be considered by the farmers,’’ Ahmedabad-based farmers rights activist Kapil Shah said.

“The farmers were not aware of trademark issues and they had certain rights under Indian law with regards to seeds and planting material,’’ Shah said.

“Along with several other farmers organisations we have demanded that PepsiCo should withdraw all cases against these farmers.

“We have also asked the federal government to intervene,’’ Patel said.

A PepsiCo spokesman refused to comment on the case. “PepsiCo has been working with thousands of local farmers in India for years to grow specific protected varieties of potatoes,’’ the spokesman said. (NAN)