Brussels, 23 May 2017 The Antwerp Court of Appeal has sentenced a farmer in the Belgian province of Antwerp to pay a large fine and camage compensation to Breeders Trust. On May 2, the full bench division of the court sentenced the farmer involved to pay Breeders Trust a compensation of more than 90,000 euros in lost income for not reporting his acreage farm saved seed for the varieties Asterix and Fontane which are protected under Plant Breeders’ Rights. In addition, the court determined that Breeders Trust has also suffered other damage, such as investigation costs and damage to reputation, for which compensation must be paid and that is fixed at the benefit that the farmer involved has enjoyed from the infringement on an acreage of more than 230 hectare of the variety Fontane. An expert designated by the court of Appeal shall determine shortly the level of profits for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013. In addition, the farmer concerned is sentenced to pay interest over the entire compensation from the day of the summons in 2013.
Finally, the court imposed an incremental penalty sum of 2,000 euro per hectare per year if the plant Breeders’ Rights are again not observed in the future.
In reaction to this, Breeders Trust director Geert Staring stated: “Based on the administration that we seized in 2013, the court has been able to ascertain that no declaration has been made for a long period of time of more than 460 hectare of planted farm saved seed of the varieties Asterix and Fontane, which are protected under Plant Breeders’ Rights, and thus no equitable remuneration has been paid. In the sector agreements that Breeders Trust concluded in 2011 with the Belgian Farmers’ Unions associated in Agrofront, clear agreements were made concerning this. If an individual farmer believes that he can ignore these agreements, it can cost a lot of money, the more so since it can, as is the case here, be determined retrospectively for the foregoing years for which varieties and acreages no remuneration has been made. In this case, the court went back as far as the production year 2009 for the variety Asterix, because the farmer had previously failed to comply with binding agreements between breeders Trust and the Belgium Farmers’ Unions. We, we reached good agreements with the Belgian farmers’ Unions that we would enforce this, so as to prevent only the amenable paying and to allow those who ‘forget’ to get away with things. That would be unfair towards all those farmers who conscientiously meet their legal obligations. For 2017, farmers must complete their declaration form before June which can be found on the website www.hoevepootgoed.be. I hope that it will not prove necessary to undertake similar actions time and again. It costs a lot of money for lawyers which is really intended for our breeders who need it for the development of new varieties that also benefit the farmers.”