According to Ken Dubas, president of 3 Star, the company believed it was free to produce, rename and sell Seminis' PVP materials under the "farmer's exemption" provision to the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) laws.

"We recognize now that our actions in this instance were improper and we regret that Seminis was harmed,” said Dubas. “We support Plant Variety Protection laws since they are needed by seed companies like 3 Star and Seminis to protect our investments, as well as for growers to know that they are getting the PVP seed varieties that they order."

"We are pleased with the results of this case,” said Bruno Ferrari, executive senior vice president at Seminis. “Seminis invests nearly $50 million each year to improve vegetables and fruits for growers and consumers, and it is imperative that we protect our intellectual property so that we can recoup our expenses and invest in future discoveries."

As part of the settlement, 100 percent of the revenue generated by the sales of the four protected varieties currently marketed by 3 Star will be remitted to Seminis. After Jan. 31, 2004, 3 Star agreed to cease all sales of the misappropriated varieties, and to not infringe on Seminis' products in the future. All other aspects of the settlement remain confidential.

Plant Variety Protection (PVP) laws protect seed companies from unauthorized reproduction of their plant varieties, while allowing bona fide researchers to continue using the protected plants to develop new and improved varieties.

Seminis Vegetable Seeds (www.seminis.com) maintains a worldwide presence and global distribution network that spans 150 countries and territories. The company's products reduce the need for agricultural chemicals, increase crop yield, reduce spoilage, offer longer shelf life, offer better tasting foods and foods with better nutritional content.

3 Star Lettuce is a Salinas, Calif.-based lettuce seed company. The company develops, produces and markets lettuce seed for the lettuce markets of North America and Europe. 3 Star Lettuce has offices and distribution centers in Salinas, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com