A Texas wheat producer was recently found to be infringing the intellectual property rights of the Texas A&M University System and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, according to the Texas Foundation Seed Service, the marketing arm of the AgriLife Research wheat breeding program.
Wayne Lidster, owner of Four Way Farms of Dalhart, as part of the settlement agreed that Four Way Farms was infringing the Plant Variety Protection Act Certificate of AgriLife Research by the unauthorized selling of TAM 304 wheat for planting seed.
Lidster settled his case for $130,000 with Scott Seed Co. of Hereford and the developer of the variety – AgriLife Research, according to AgriLife Research and Scott Seed officials.
Chad Kriegshauser, co-owner of Scott Seed Co., said they were alerted to the improper sales and began an investigation utilizing the Henry Law Firm in Arkansas, which works with the Farmers Yield Initiative and specializes in prosecuting infringements of Plant Variety Protection Act Certificates.
The issue was settled before going to court, Kriegshauser said.
“We had the rights under our contract with AgriLife Research to pursue anyone we hear about making unauthorized sales,” Kriegshauser said. “The main thing is to try to get them to stop and protect the intellectual property.”
Known as “brown-bagging,” unauthorized sales of protected wheat varieties as seed is unlawful, said Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed Service program director in Vernon.
The Federal Seed Act states that certain protected varieties must be sold only as a class of certified seed, Brown said. Rights to produce and sell these varieties are authorized by the developer of the variety.
In the Lidster case, the producer had neither certified the seed as required by law, nor permission to sell the wheat for further propagation, Brown said.
AgriLife Research wheat development teams benefit directly from additional funding through royalties generated from authorized sales of certified seed, he said. Wheat producers benefit through the introduction of new varieties with better yields, improved disease and pest resistances and additional advancements in technology.
“The violators and those who buy from these infringers are getting a free ride at the wheat developer’s expense and are reducing opportunities for new varieties to be developed that ultimately benefit wheat producers throughout Texas and beyond,” Brown said.
Wheat producers should keep in mind that the Plant Variety Protection Act allows producers to grow and keep seed of protected varieties for use on their own farms, he said. It does not allow growers to sell or trade that seed.
Brown said the law allows all parties involved in the unauthorized transaction to be sued: the seller, the buyer, seed cleaner for seeding and other parties involved in such transactions, including custom farming operators.