The Power of Enforcement

Customs authorities becoming increasingly aware of illegally grown proprietary fruit

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This past June, the local Italian port authorities and customs officials seized a container of suspicious premium proprietary table grapes. The shipment seized had left Egypt and was destined for the Netherlands, to then be distributed in the retail markets around Northern Europe. While being held in its transit in the Ravenna port, Italy, it was discovered to be the well-known table grape variety, Early Sweet®.

Grapa Varieties, title holder of the Early Sweet variety, works closely with customs authorities at international ports. By virtue of the joint ongoing collaboration, the detained goods were subjected to a DNA test, carried out with the support of Grapa’s legal representative in Italy, Giacomo Moleri, partner at Spheriens Avvocati. The DNA results revealed that the cargo contained a shipment of Early Sweet grapes that was due to enter the market fraudulently. The Court of Ravenna subsequently granted approval for the seizure and destruction of the illegally commercialized Early Sweet. The importer was also reported by the customs authorities to the Italian Public Prosecutor, and consequently the Public Prosecutor opened a file, currently in the pre-trial investigation phase.

Giacomo Moleri explains: “Customs protection is an important mechanism for the enforcement of IP rights. The recent case before the Customs of Ravenna is a confirmation of how effective the cooperation with Customs is in preventing infringing products from entering the EU market; it is noteworthy that also the importer could be considered responsible for the infringement. This should call for a more careful selection of the source of supply for mass market retailers and wholesalers. The only way to ensure that consumers enjoy safe and quality produce, is if it becomes common practice for every link in the supply chain to recognize that trusted legal growers and marketers are the baseline for sourcing produce.” 

Protecting Grapa’s Intellectual Property rights by taking action against illegal production and distribution of proprietary varieties is a necessary step to safeguard the IP assets as well as its licensed producers. Rafi Karniel, CEO of Grapa, reports: “We are pleased with the outcome of yet another case of illegal production being halted, and appreciate, once again, the collaboration and effort of the Italian authorities with whom we work alongside for many years now. Grapa will always continue to combat intellectual property infringement by acting against the nonauthorized trading and production of our varieties.”

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