The discovery of a very special tree deep in an exuberant and remote valley in the Dominican Republic gave birth to a new species of avocado.
The avocado, which is called Carla, has emerged as a rock star in the world of avocado as it combines the unctuous succulence of the popular - albeit small - Hass variety grown in California with the prodigious size of the Florida varieties. The Carla caused a sensation when a high-end British retailer began stocking the huge fruit.
Now, the inventor of the Carla is in a federal court in Miami suing to protect his exclusive rights to sell this valuable product that is highly sought by lovers of culinary fashion. With allegations of the theft of tree branches, clandestine cloning, and DNA testing of competitors' products, this is not a common case of patent infringement.
Agroindustria Ocoeña, the Dominican company that owns a US patent for Carla, is suing a distributor of Miami products, Fresh Directions International, alleging that it is illegally selling Carlas in South Florida to another producer. There aren't imitations on those avocados, the lawsuit argues. DNA tests show that they are virtual clones of the Carla variety, which, according to the lawsuit, could only be achieved by grafting: someone cut and stole branches of Carla trees to recreate their own harvest.
"Whoever is importing the fruit illegally must stop doing it or obtain my client's patent license," said attorney Ury Fischer, who represents Agroindustria Ocoeña, which according to the patent documents is the inventor of the Carla tree.