Fresh berry packing/shipping giant Driscoll’s has filed a legal complaint alleging patent infringement and “conversion of Driscoll’s proprietary strawberry varieties.”
California Berry Cultivars and a co-founder of the strawberry breeding company, Douglas Shaw, are subjects of the complaint.
The complaint was filed March 20 in the Sacramento Division of the Eastern District of California, and demands a jury trial seeking damages and other judicial relief.
Driscoll’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Miles Reiter said in a written statement Driscoll’s has invested heavily in a traditional breeding program in order to produce the berry varieties it provides 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,” Reiter said in a statement.
California Berry Cultivars did not respond on March 20 to electronic requests for comment on the complaint.
Driscoll’s said its current lawsuit 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, revealing that CBC had been breeding with several of Driscoll’s varieties,” according to a statement from Driscoll’s.
“All of the strawberry breeding programs in California have an interest in fostering fair competition that benefits consumers and growers,” Driscoll’s General Counsel Tom O’Brien said in a statement. “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.”