The University of California, Davis, has reportedly filed a motion in California state court to dismiss the breach of contract suit that the California Strawberry Commission filed in October after it learned that the university may stop breeding and selling strawberry germplasm to farmers. UC Davis has developed and sold its strawberry germplasm at low royalty rates to the commission for several decades through a research program headed by two professors. According to the commission’s complaint, the professors announced their intention to resign in 2012 and take their research to a private company, raising the cost of royalties and limiting the sales to select strawberry growers, and as a result, the university notified the commission of its intention to shutter the program.
In its complaint, the commission argued that its growers have directly funded the university program, so they are entitled to receive the new strawberry varieties that the professors intended to take to the private companies to further cultivate. The university sought “to take the fruits—both literally and figuratively—of decades-long research that the commission funded for the benefit of the California strawberry industry and hand them over to private financial interests,” the commission argued. In a blog post announcing its motion to dismiss the suit, UC Davis rejected the contention that the program will end. “The strawberry breeding program at UC Davis is the pre-eminent public breeding program in the world today and the only public breeding program in the state,” said Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “We are committed to maintaining that status for years to come.” See UC Davis News, April 23, 2014; Sacramento Bee, April 27, 2014.