South African court case to test validity of Tango mandarin variety
Known as W. Murcott to some and Afourer to others, the Nadorcott mandarin has proven popular around the world for its color, taste, east-to-peel nature and the fact it has very few, if any, seeds.
But the owners of the variety, originally developed by the
By irradiating the budwood from Nadorcotts, University of California Riverside scientists created a new variety called 'Tango', which produces fewer seeds than its predecessor when exposed to pollinators like bees and pollen from other varieties.
For Nador Cott Protection (NCP) based in southern France, this change is not enough to make the Tango unique, and it will test this plant breeders' rights claim before a South African court on Feb. 26, 2015.
"The NCP and their agents in South Africa, Citrogold, claim that the Respondents in this matter are infringing their Plant Breeders Rights by planting a citrus mandarin variety which they call the Tango," the plaintiffs said in a release.
"The NCP and Citrogold intend to show that the Tango is a 'copy' of the Nadorcott or at least essentially derived from the Nadorcott and that the Tango is unlawfully competing with the Nadorcott in South Africa."
The two entities will be taking the case against companies including Spanish company Eurosemillas and South Africa's Stargrow next year, following an order from the Western Cape Division of the High Court in Cape Town on Sept. 25.
The plaintiffs said the variety - sold to South African consumers as ClemenGold, Sweet C and other brand names - were bringing good returns to farmers because of its positive traits and its timely shipping window when "no other appealing mandarins are available".
While the irradiation process involved with Tango impaired the variety's seed development, the NCP and Citrogold argue the Nadorcott too is seedless when produced in large-scale controlled commercial fields.
"Eurosemillas, Stargrow and others are proceeding to sell and plant the Tango without the permission of the NCP," they said.
"The issue to be decided by the court is whether the changes introduced to the Nadorcott through irradiation makes the Tango a new variety, or whether the Tango exhibits predominantly the features of Nadorcott and is therefore an essentially derived variety.
"The implication if the Tango is found to be the same as the Nadorcott or essentially derived from the Nadorcott is that the authorisation of the NCP is required to plant and sell the Tango in South Africa."
The two groups have also called on the court to order that no Tangos can be sold in the country until the legal relationship between it and Nadorcott is determined by the court.
"In the meantime, the NCP and Citrogold, being represented by the intellectual property firm DM Kisch assisted by Robert de Rooy Attorneys, have also issued summons to claim damages from Eurosemillas, Stargrow and those that are selling or planting the Tango without authorisation from the NCP," they said.
"The determination of the real legal relationship between the Nadorcott and the Tango will coincide with the hearing of the damages claim."
Citrogold added there was a similar case against Eurosemillas before the Commercial Court No.1 of Valencia in Spain.