Leading family-owned berry company Driscoll’s has filed legal action against a California-based breeder alleging patent infringement and conversion of its proprietary strawberry varieties.
Driscoll’s filed the complaint in the Federal Court on March 20 against California Berry Cultivars (CBC) and its co-founder Douglas Shaw.
“Driscoll’s has made it our mission to produce fresh berries that consistently delight consumers through a hallmark of great flavor,” said Driscoll’s chairman and chief executive officer Miles Reiter.
“We’ve been able to differentiate the flavor of our berries by investing in our dedicated, traditional breeding program, which provides exclusive varieties to hundreds of independent family farmers.
“We believe in a fair and competitive marketplace, and will take required actions to protect our research, patents and proprietary varieties.”
This suit follows earlier litigation between UC Davis and California Berry Cultivars (CBC) in May 2017 where a jury found CBC had committed willful patent infringement.
As a result of the trial, certain CBC breeding records were made public, allegedly revealing that CBC had been breeding with several of Driscoll’s varieties.
Driscoll’s claims the laws protecting new varieties of plants and plant breeder rights have introduced better tasting berries to consumers and led to the growth of the strawberry industry.
“We will stand up for our patented varieties and the farming families who rely on our breeding programs,” said Driscoll’s general counsel Tom O’Brien.
“Driscoll’s and all of the strawberry breeding programs in California have an interest in fostering fair competition that benefits consumers and growers.
“We cannot and will not abide by the illegal and unauthorized use of our varieties and believe that all breeding programs should be protected from these kinds of actions.”
The complaint was filed in the Sacramento Division of the Eastern District of California.