A federal appeals judge has ruled in favor of Washington State University in its lawsuit against the former Seattle tissue culture company Phytelligence over unlicensed propagation of the WA 38 apple.

A three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over patent appeals, ruled on Aug. 25 that Phytelligence violated propagation rules when shipping some 135,000 WA 38 trees, which produce the apple marketed as Cosmic Crisp, without a license from the university, which owns the patent and trademark rights.

The opinion, which upheld a July 2019, U.S. District Court ruling, was unsealed Aug. 27. WSU and Phytelligence, a university spin-off company that helped in the research phases of the apple, filed dueling lawsuits in 2018 over the rights to commercially propagate the trees. 

Phytelligence appealed in July 2019 but has since ceased operations, filing for receivership in September 2019.

—by Ross Courtney