South African grape wrangle resolved

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South African grape wrangle resolved

South Africa's Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of Californian table grape developer Sheehan Genetics as the owner of 10 seedless varieties licensed for propagation in the country.

Voor-Groenberg Nursery and Olyvenboom Boerdery Pty appealed against Colors Fruit South Africa's claim over ownership in a case thatwas heard on Jul. 25.

Colors Fruit was appointed as Sheehan Genetics's South African agents in charge of plant breeder rights back in 2003 by head license owners, Spanish company Antonio Munoz y Cia SA (AMC).

Colors Fruit subsequently employed Western Cape-based Voor-Groenberg nursery to propagate the plant material and sell to growers.

The dispute followed the death of Sheehan Genetics founder Tim Sheehan in August 2009.  AMC told Colors Fruit the license would finish from March 2011 as Sheehan's death was in 'material breach' of the agreement.

Colors Fruit argued the sub-license did not contain a reservation of ownership in favor of Sheehan Genetics or AMC.

However, the Court of Appeal's judgment last week said there was "no provision" or "evidence" in either the head or sub-license to show Sheehan Genetics, or AMC , intended trans­ferring plant material ownership to Colors Fruit.

Sheehan Genetics' said the company would be contacting South African growers via U.K.-based breeding and licensing specialist Special New Fruit Licensing Limited (SNFL).

SNFL managing director Duncan Macintyre, said he expected Sheehan Genetics' table grape varieties would be planted in the country this season.

"We have great hopes that these exciting varieties will play a significant part in the growth of the table grape industry in South Africa."

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