Grape breeders sue Greek nursery for rights

Landmark case:

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Community Plant Variety Rights Grapa Co, owners of Early Sweet and the exclusive master licensee for the ARRA table grape varieties, and SNFL Group, exclusive master licensee for Ralli Seedless and of the Sheehan Genetics table grape varieties, have together successfully taken legal action in a Greek court against a Greek nursery.

Grapa and SNFL became aware that a Greek nursery, without a licence from either Grapa or SNFL, was propagating grape vines of Early Sweet and Ralli Seedless. Grapa and SNFL believed that the Greek nursery was distributing these vines to unlicensed growers in at least one country outside Greece.

Grapa and SNFL were able to organise a purchase of illegally produced vines from the Greek nursery so that DNA evidence could be compiled for use in a Greek court. The case was heard in the court in Greece and the Greek nursery accepted both Grapa and SNFL’s petitions for injunction to prevent any further illegal propagation and distribution of Early Sweet and Ralli Seedless grapes.

Under the terms of an agreement between Grapa, SNFL and the Greek nursery the nursery has paid damages to both SNFL and Grapa, and is subject to a permanent court Order not to infringe the Early Sweet or Ralli Seedless plant variety rights, or the rights in other grape varieties owned or licensed to Grapa and SNFL.

SNFL and Grapa are now using information obtained as a result of the Court action to track down other unlicensed vines of Grapa and SNFL varieties that are held by growers and nurseries in Greece and other countries. Grapa and SNFL will act against unlicensed growers to protect their rights in their varieties. Any grower or nursery in Greece that has unlicensed SNFL or Grapa varieties should expect to be the subject of court action for the infringement of SNFL’s and Grapa’s plant variety rights.

Duncan Macintyre, Chairman of SNFL Group, said “This is a landmark case, and the first of its kind in Greece. As grape breeders, we invest huge amounts of money over long periods of time to create new varieties, and it is essential that we have a robust legal framework to protect out investment from breaches of our plant variety rights. We will now continue to enforce our rights and any grower we find with material that is not licensed will be pursued and made to destroy unlicensed vines and to pay damages for the unlicensed use of the varieties. Such actions by unlicensed growers do not just damage the breeder; they also are unfair on the growers who legitimately obtain licences for the excellent varieties that SNFL has developed.”

Rafi Karniel, Managing Director of Grapa, said “Unlicensed propagation and production of protected varieties is becoming a big issue for all plant breeders. I have always felt the answer to this problem lies in extensive legal enforcement activities. About five years ago, I envisioned that effective enforcement would be established through collaboration between different table grape breeders, united in our cause. I am pleased that after all these years, we finally reap the benefits of this vision and I hope that the future will hold many more successful collaborations with other table grape breeders who have had their rights infringed. The successful outcome of this case will hopefully assist in building respect for breeders’ rights and act as a deterrent to other nurseries and growers who are involved in unlicensed propagation and production of protected varieties. Breeding outstanding varieties, such as the ones Grapa represents, is not only a process which demands many resources, but also requires a substantial investment in enforcement activities, which we will definitely continue to be committed to”.

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