The South Dakota Board of Regents filed a lawsuit against Discount Seeds Inc., alleging the company had illegally sold wheat seeds belonging to the plaintiffs “proprietary oat varieties” developed by South Dakota State University and South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (SDAES).
The complaint, which was filed in District of South Dakota, explained that the Board of Regents has the power to sue for the property of educational institutions in its control. It alleges that the business violated the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), which provides protection for seeds and plant varieties, similar to patent protections.
The board, represented by Justin J. Goetz, filed its lawsuit against Discount Seeds and customers who purchased the PVPA-protected seeds from distributors associated with the company. It alleged that the defendant sold “large quantities” of the seed oats without adhering to seed labeling laws because the varieties were not legally able to be sold. An investigator was allegedly used to purchase the seed and found that the product did contain the PVPA protected seeds.
The plant varieties that were allegedly sold despite being issued to SDAES and having protection under the PVPA include varieties of oats called Hayden, Horsepower, Natty, Goliath, Stallion, and Shelby 427. The PVP certificates for each variety specify that the seeds can “only be sold in the United States as a class of certified seed,” and must be certified based on variety and purity before a sale is completed. The law also states that the seeds should only be sold with the authorization of the owner.
The South Dakota Board of Regents alleges that the defendants knew the seeds were protected and that they were infringing on the owner’s rights. The “Plaintiff’s representatives have personally visited Discount’s operations and discussed at length the importance of Plaintiff protecting intellectual property rights. Plaintiff’s representatives have sent formal cease and desist letters and notices to Discount, on several occasions,” the complaint stated noting specific instances where the defendants were told about the infringement and indicated they would stop the violations.
The plaintiff asked for the court to grant an injunction stopping the parties from selling the infringing seeds and asking for storage facilities, purchases, and suppliers to be identified and accounted for. The board further requested an award of damages, specifically treble damages, for the infringement, pre and post-judgment interest, and attorney’s fees.