Friday Frolic: A Bit of Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Plant Strawberries Straw Berries


For most of us (at least those of us at LauraLaw) jam is just something that British people put on their toast. For plant scientist Douglas Shaw, however, jam and the strawberries that make them is the subject of a lawsuit filed against him by the University of California at Davis. His story has become an interesting example of the lengths that institutions and individuals would go to protect their intellectual property.

Professor Shaw retired from the University of California at Davis before the lawsuit was filed. While working for the school, Shaw and his scientific partner did a lot of research on strawberries and other plants. They retired from UC Davis in 2014 then started a business called California Berry Cultivars. The company develops new varieties of strawberries and works with various growers and nurseries.

The university claims that Professor Shaw and his researchers infringed on a patent held by UC Davis and violated an oath they signed “not to enrich themselves by taking or acquiring plants, seeds and other biological material and continuing their research using descendants of plants they developed at UC Davis. In their own lawsuit, Professor Shaw and his scientific partner allege that UC Davis locked up some of their plants so they couldn’t have access to them; and, that the university wiped out years of strawberry research.

Apparently, the federal judge who is hearing the case has the same thoughts as the rest of of us – It’s really come to this? The judge scolded both parties for the way they have been acting and decided that each side will be responsible for their own costs.

Generally, any research or work created at the university would belong to the institution – not to the scientists. Of course, the scientists are arguing that the intellectual property belongs to them. However, it will be interesting to see what comes out at trial. Maybe Professor Shaw will find his way of this strawberry . . . jam?

All puns aside, Happy Friday from LauraLaw!

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