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California growers argue against patented varieties of grape

Back in December 2012, we told our Sacramento readers about a lawsuit three California grape growers had filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Table Grape Commission.

We thought we would provide an update on this issue, since this case has the potential to very seriously impact California's large and profitable grape industry.

Last week, the three grape growers presented their case against the USDA and Commission. Essentially, they said that the two parties should not be able to patent two varieties of grape that they worked together to develop, the Scarlet Royal and the Autumn King, because those varieties of grape were available to the public for more than a year before the USDA sought patents for them.

Under intellectual property law, material that has been in the public domain for more than year cannot properly be patented.

What is interesting about this case is that it seems the grape growers think the release of these grape varieties before a patent was obtained was nefarious, not merely accidental.

The grape growers have claimed that the USDA and Grape Commision wanted them to start growing the grapes and then become economically dependent on the sales of those varieties. That way, once a patent was obtained, the growers could not afford to stop growing the grapes and would have to pay the USDA and Grape Commission license fees to stay in business.

At this point, the USDA and Grape Commission have not yet presented their side of the story. When they do, we will cover their argument in a post on this blog.


Source: The Packer, "Growers rest case on second day of grape patent trial," Coral Beach, June 13, 2013

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