Pepsi is suing four Indian farmers for growing a proprietary "Lays" potato, seeking $150,000 each in damages

Pepsi has confirmed that it has files lawsuits against four farmers in India who grew a variety of potato that was registered as being for the exclusive production of the company's Lay's potato chips.

Activists say that the company sent private investigators after the farmers, and that they posed as buyers for the proprietary lifeform.

It's not clear what the cause of action is: all the news stories on places like The Hill and The Daily Beast source their reports to this CNN Business article, which calls the potatoes both "trademarked" and "copyrighted" (it is more common for lawsuits over proprietary crops to be brought on patent grounds).

Unnamed food sovereignty activists quoted in the CNN Business article said that India's law protects "farmers' rights to grow and sell trademarked crops."

"We believe that the intimidation and legal harassment of farmers is happening because farmers are not fully aware of [their] rights," the letter said. The letter also claims PepsiCo sent private detectives to the accused farmers posing as potential buyers, secretly recording video of them and taking samples of the potatoes.

PepsiCo did not comment on those allegations.

PepsiCo is suing farmers in India for growing the potatoes it uses in Lays chips [Rishi Iyengar/CNN Business]