This week, Breeders Trust successfully reached an agreement with eight Italian agricultural cooperatives and producers that propagated potato varieties, protected under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act and marketed these as officially certified seed potatoes, without permission of the variety owner. In total, it involved approximately 800 tonnes of seed potatoes of the 2012 crop of the varieties Marabel, Laura, Almera and Melody.
Brussels-based Breeders Trust traced the Italian companies after their investigations revealed that these companies had registered seedlings with the Italian Inspection Service for Seed Potatoes. This way, the companies in question were able to market illegal seed potatoes with official certificates, without involvement of the variety rights holders and without paying licence fees. Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act, the propagators could be traced through the Italian inspection authority. An understanding has been reached with each of them. Geert Staring, director of Breeders Trust commented: “the seed potatoes we intercepted were propagated as seeds in Italy in 2012 and were officially certified by the Italian inspection authorities last winter after completion of the field and bulk inspections. Once we had traced the companies involved, we demanded that the seed potatoes be immediately recalled and withdrawn from the market. In addition, the parties involved had to pay a hefty fine and sign a cease-and-desist declaration to avoid legal proceedings.
The successful lawyer of Breeders Trust, Nicola Novaro: “the involved agricultural cooperation’s have realized and acknowledged that they have violated the Plant variety rights. In order to avoid costly procedures they all paid a fine with full payment of the legal fees”.
Geert Staring is pleased with the amicable settlements. We are not looking for lengthy, costly legal proceedings. It is important to realise that not only the market is disrupted, but the variety owner who misses out on license fees suffers a loss as well. Justice must prevail, however. This time they get off lightly. It is not acceptable that if somewhere in an EU Member State seed potatoes grown for consumption are secretly registered for official certification without the permission of the variety owner and that this remains unpunished. In this case, the seeds (Class A) were exported in 2011 to be once more grown for consumption. It is expressly forbidden to use such seeds for further propagation and marketing in subsequent years.