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Patent holder for Carla avocado calls out copycat producer in court case

Tim Nelson
November 26, 2018

It’s no secret that avocados are big business. So it stands to reason that a bigger avocado would provide an even more lucrative opportunity for produce growers. With the market for “green gold” as cutthroat as it is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that arguments over the rights to sale an oversized variety of the vocado would travel from the grove to the courtroom.

Aiosa, a Dominican-based agricultural company, is supposed to enjoy an exclusive patent to grow and sell the Carla avocado, a five-inch long, two-plus pound varietal with a longer growing season than the standard Hass avocado, until 2024. But a lawsuit the company filed in the Southern District of Florida alleges that Fresh Directions, a rival company, had been importing and selling Carla clones under the name “AVOPRO.”

Apparently, the counterfeit Carla scheme dates back to at least 2012. Though Aiosa’s lawyer issuing a strong warning at the time, the company resisted filing a lawsuit out of a desire to “resolve this matter amicably”. But with recent DNA testing proving that Fresh Directions was still up to no good, Aiosa had no choice to get a judge involved.

Stealing an avocado varietal and repackaging it as your own isn’t as easy as buying an avocado and planting the seed. According to experts who spoke to Buzzfeed News, you’d need to get your hands on the buds of a Carla-growing tree, possibly by snipping off a branch or two. From there, you’d graft your pilfered buds onto an existing tree, which, if done properly, will eventually coax the top of the tree to grow the desired fruit.

In this case, it’s rumored that a family fallout may have played a role in the counterfeit avocados. The BBC alleges that Carla inventor Carlo Antonio Castillo Pimentel gave a few tree buds to his brother Manuel at some point before the avocado innovator died. It’s possible that Manuel, who went on to found Fresh Directions’ parent company, put those buds to use, but Aiosa’s lawyer could not confirm the veracity of that story to Buzzfeed.

Fresh Directions doesn’t deny that they’ve imported and sold Carla avocados in the US market. Instead, their defense hinges on a belief that the patent granted to Aiosa is invalid, and the Carla owners have been enforcing their exclusivity “in a way that exceeds the scope of the grant of the patent.”

According to the Miami Herald, Aiosa’s lawsuit aims to stop its rival from “infringing” on their exclusive right to sell Carla avocados and to collect damages for lost sales dating between the 2012 discovery and at least February of 2018.

Perhaps leaning on those old family ties, the two sides want to see if they can end things amicably. Attorneys for both the plaintiff and defendant recently set a mediation date for March 2019, at which point representatives for Aiosa and Fresh Directions will try to hash out an agreement. Hopefully once it’s over, everyone can get together to celebrate with a giant batch of guacamole.

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