After waiting more than five years for their day in court, three California grape growers took only two days to present their case against the California Table Grape Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Federal Judge Sam Haddon reserved five days for the bench trial in which the growers are asking that the USDA’s patents on two grape varieties be rescinded. With the government beginning its defense June 12, it appeared that the courtroom action would be concluded within the allotted time.
The California grape growers challenging the patents are Delano Farms Co., Four Star Fruit Inc. and Gerawan Farming Inc.
They contend patents for Scarlet Royal and Autumn King grapes should be rescinded because the grapes were in the public domain for more than a year at the point USDA requested patents in 2004.
According to court documents, the agency received patents in 2006 for both varieties. Federal law prohibits the patenting of anything that has been in the public realm for a year or more preceding a patent request.
The USDA and the commission said in pretrial briefs the grapes were not legally in the public realm before the patents were issued. They contend other growers illegally obtained plant stock for the varieties from a tractor driver at a USDA experimental breeding station, and because the plant stock was obtained without permission, there is not a public domain issue.