December 7, 2010 - We often report on Apple patent lawsuits, but this time we're actually talking about the fruit, not the maker of the iPad, iPod and iPhone.
Minnesota apple growers filed a lawsuit against the University of Minnesota, which owns a plant patent on the SweeTango variety of apples. The dispute arose from the University's grant of exclusive rights to Pepin Heights Orchard to grow the SweeTango apples. That move, according to Minnesota apple growers, created what amounts to a monopoly because wholesale apple buyers are less likely to buy from orchards that don't grow the SweeTango - an apple that is expected to outsell the popular Honeycrisp apples.
The University maintains that the agreement with Pepin Heights Orchard is important to protect the quality of the fruit by controlling the growing condition of the trees, but apple growers are angry that the exclusive deal was made without their knowledge. The University's current patent on the SweeTango apple will last 20 years.
A court will decide within the next three months whether to dismiss the case or let it continue.