©Reuters / Rupak De Chowdhuri

PepsiCo has withdrawn its lawsuits against Indian potato farmers who were accused of infringing the company’s intellectual property.

The firm had sued the nine farmers over their cultivation of a particular variety of potato, which PepsiCo uses exclusively for its Lay’s potato chips, but last week agreed to stop pursuing the suits.

“It’s a victory for us, but PepsiCo’s decision to file lawsuits against the farmers has sullied their reputation and the company now must apologise,” said lawyer Anand Yagnik, who represents the farmers, at a press conference.

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The decision may have come as a result of political pressure exerted by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who demanded the company stop the legal action.

Since 2009, PepsiCo has granted permission to select farmers in India to grow the potato variety, known as FL 2027, but more recently the company discovered that some in the Gujarat region were cultivating the spud without a license. In response, the corporation filed a lawsuit in April that sought over $1 million in damages from the unauthorized growers.

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A number of rights and advocacy groups slammed the lawsuit, arguing the farmers did nothing wrong and, under World Trade Organization rules, had a right to continue growing the potatoes. Some even called for a boycott of PepsiCo, and – after weeks of bad press – the company decided to drop the suit.

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