WSU sues Yakima apple grower over alleged patent infringement

Washington State University has filed a lawsuit in federal court against a Yakima grower for allegedly infringing on its patent of an apple. The apple in question is WA 2, known to consumers as Sunrise Magic. WSU claims that Yakima apple grower Pro Orchard Management and affiliated packer Apple King infringed on the patent by growing and selling Sunrise Magic without a license. The university also claims both companies provided budwood to unlicensed persons who asexually reproduced Sunrise Magic apple trees.

According to the complaint, filed on January 22 at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, local companies Apple King and Pro Orchard Management have been growing and selling WSU’s proprietary WA 2 variety without a licence.

WSU began its apple-breeding program in 1994 to grow apples unique to Washington. In 2011, Sunrise Magic was the first apple made available to Washington growers through license agreements.

WA 2 was the first product of WSU’s apple breeding efforts. It is protected by a plant patent (number 21,710), which was registered in 2011.

This isn’t the first time WSU has sued to protect its apple patents. In 2018, the university sued biotech company Phytelligence for allegedly infringing on its patent of WA 38, better known as Cosmic Crisp, which was unveiled to consumers last December.

WSU is seeking a permanent injunction blocking the companies from growing or selling the apple variety, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees.

Phytelligence had previously sued WSU for allegedly blocking it from licensing the new variety. The company is appealing that case in federal court.

Representatives for both WSU and the apple growers declined requests for comment.


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