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Georgia Turf Battle Settled

The University of Georgia fears new legislation will cloud title to the turf grass intellectual property and scare off investment money whose sources include multinational companies. Also, officials contend, it could hamper recruitment of top-flight researchers.

A battle between turf growers and the University of Georgia has been averted before lawmakers stepped in. Under a March compromise, six domestic turfgrass growers will have the right to produce a saltwater-friendly turfgrass developed by the University of Georgia.

The agreement prompted Georgia legislators to kill a proposed law that would have required UGA to give in-state companies first rights to market Sea Isle Supreme turfgrass. UGA officials had planned to grant licenses to overseas growers, but opposition from at least one grower in Georgia prompted state lawmakers to file legislation that would have required UGA to give Georgia companies the right of first refusal to license the special grasses.

UGA Vice President for Research David Lee also announced that the six domestic companies with licenses to sell the saltwater-friendly grasses may continue to market their products overseas along with the overseas growers that already have licenses for other UGA-developed turfgrasses.

In Georgia, there is a turfgrass battle brewing between UGA and sod companies over new grass because the research foundation that controls UGA's intellectual property, plans in May to export licenses so foreign companies can grow and sell the grass.

Source of Dispute

Under the old system, Georgia companies sold turfgrass developed at the University of Georgia, and UGA collects licensing fees and royalties to fund more research. But now a rift has developed over Sea Isle Supreme – a grass with great profit potential.

The University of Georgia Research Foundation, which controls UGA’s intellectual property, previously planned to export licenses so foreign companies can grow and sell the grass. Overseas sales would help meet a strong demand for the product and generate new funds for the university’s work, foundation officials say.

However, in an attempt to block the move, a bill that would wrest control from the University System passed the House Higher Education Committee in early March.

The legislation would have created a State Intellectual Properties Board that would vote up or down on exporting licenses.

Source:, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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November 18, 2019, 11:50 am PDT

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