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Avocado lawsuit ends in apology, offers lessons for others

Avocados — a long-overlooked fruit in American cuisine — have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. (Blame the Millennial obsession over avocado toast if you like, but the fruit was honestly overdue for some recognition as a source of nutrients.)

Well, Fresh Directions International, a Miami produce distributor, was sued for its alleged illegal sales of “Carlas,” a particularly tasty version of the fruit. The company that sued, Agroindustria Oceana (AIOSA), claimed that they held the patent on the Carlas. They sued over the infringement of their intellectual property rights.

Well, the lawsuit abruptly ended, and AIOSA was obliged to proffer a public apology over the issue to Fresh Directions International. Why? Because it turns out that Carlas were discovered and developed by a man maned Carlos Antonio Castillo Pimentel. He went on to found AIOSA. However, he gave his brother, Manual Castillo Pimentel, the legal authority and right to make use of the stem, buds and clippings from the Carla avocado tree as he saw fit.

Manuel Pimentel — who is still living — is the actual owner of Fresh Directions. The lawsuit started sometime after Carlos Pimentel passed away by some relatives who were disgruntled about what they saw as an infringement of their rights.

When those family members brought their federal lawsuit to court, they apparently neglected to mention the familial connection between the two companies. While not specifically stated, the odds are good that the attorneys representing the plaintiffs were somewhat taken by surprise to learn this information as well.

Cases like this illustrate the importance of making sure that you have done your research before you start litigation with another business. If you’re struggling with a question about whether or not to sue another business, make certain that you put all the cards on the table when you talk over things with an attorney.