Millions at Stake for Strawberries

Over the past six decades, UC Davis has supported a strawberry breeding program that has resulted in the development of over 30 patented varieties of strawberries. That may seem like a lot, but this same activity has also netted the University over $100 million and has found itself in the middle of a $45 million law suit regarding patent infringement. Two former scientists of the university left in 2014 and started their own program called California Berry Cultivar. UC Davis then initiated a legal action alleging that the scientists violated an oath not to enrich themselves by taking or acquiring plants, seeds, and other biological material, and for patent infringement. Meanwhile the scientists claim that they own the intellectual property and are countersuing the University for unfairly restricting access to their research.

Last year alone, the strawberry industry was valued in California at an estimated $2 billion with over 1.6 million tons of strawberries produced. While the scientists say the university was beginning to wind down their research in the area, UC Davis states on their website that they have no such intentions, stating that they have "an unwavering commitment to continue the public breeding program" and helping local growers by lowering costs and increasing results through the research that is continuing to be conducted.

Overall, careful what you agree to when working for an employer and for employers ensure that your employees are aware of what information belongs to whom or you could find yourself in the middle of a costly legal battle.

This article is provided for informational purpose only and is not intended as a form of legal advice. If you have any questions on the subject matter of this article, call the Law Offices of Roland Tong, at 949-298-6867 or email Mr. Tong at roland@rtlawoffices.com. Mr. Tong has been obtaining patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret protections for his clients since 2001. He has represented a wide range of clients from start-up companies to Fortune 500 companies in a wide range of industries.