SweeTango settlement is sweet for the University

The settlement will result in more trees available to Minnesota apple growers.

Jia Guo

The long fight over distribution rights to the popular SweeTango apple is ending in the University of MinnesotaâÄôs favor.

Minnesota apple growers have agreed to settle with the University and Pepin Heights Orchard, the company with exclusive rights to market and distribute the apples nationwide.

The settlement obtained by the Associated Press maintains the agreement with Pepin Heights, but also provides a silver lining for Minnesota growers left out of the deal. More orchards will be able to lease the trees to grow the apples and the number of trees an orchard will be allowed to cultivate will increase over the next five years.

âÄúWhatâÄôs important here, what this lawsuit did do, is it did result in making more trees available for more apple growers throughout the state of Minnesota,âÄù Attorney Lisa Lamm Bachman told the AP.

Under the exclusive deal, Pepin Heights is the only company that can distribute to wholesalers. While other orchards can still grow the apples, they can only sell the apples at farmerâÄôs markets, road-side stands and direct-to-store delivery.

Fearing the deal was against Minnesota antitrust law because it was made in the dark, apple growers in Minnesota and Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the University in June 2010.

Hennepin County District Judge Lloyd Zimmerman threw out growersâÄô antitrust charges toward the University in February. Zimmerman upheld the UniversityâÄôs right to grant an exclusive license, which could set precedent for other fruits developed through University research.

Though one charge âÄî whether the University violated federal laws by making the agreement with Pepin Heights before other orchards knew about the deal âÄî still remains, the case would be dismissed pending a judgeâÄôs approval of the settlement. If they settle, the growers who filed the suit will have to pay $25,000 in legal fees to Pepin Heights.

Developed by David Bedford in 2009, the SweeTango apples are a hybrid of the UniversityâÄôs two popular creations, the Honeycrisp and the Zestar.

The University is hoping the SweeTango will be as commercially successful as the Honeycrisp which brought in more than $8 million in royalties before its patent expired.

 

-The Associated Press contributed to this report.