Australian grape industry body chair quits following Sun World IP breach

The Chair of the Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) has stepped down after he was caught with unauthorized vines by Sun World International.

The ATGA said on Wednesday that John Argiro has stepped down as both chair and board member, effective immediately.

The news comes a week after the Californian-based variety development and licensing company announced it had reached settlement of a dispute with a "prominent" but unnamed Australian table grape producer within the Sunraysia region. 

The parties have agreed to settlement terms that include the removal of unauthorized vines and payments to Sun World totalling in excess of USD$220,000 (AUD$325,000).

Argiro stated in a letter to the board that he did not “wish to subject the ATGA to unnecessary scrutiny” following “breaches to grower license agreements”, the association said.

“I support the role that Sun World and other plant breeders play in the industry, understanding the protection of their rights is paramount,” Argiro stated.

The ATGA board asserted it does not condone breaches of intellectual property (IP) or contractual rights, and has accepted Argiro’s resignation.

Plant breeder’s rights are integral to the continued development of the table grape industry, the ATGA board said.

“The role of proprietary breeders in developing new high quality table grape varieties drives growth within the industry, fosters stronger market access and continued investment into innovation Australia-wide,” the board stated.

“The ATGA board respects the right of commercial breeders to protect their varieties. The board does not condone infringements of IP and agreement rights. Australian table grape growers who lease or are licensed to grow IP protected varieties are well aware of their responsibilities.”

ATGA deputy chair Jeremey Boyd has been appointed acting chair.

Jeremey will lead the board until the ATGA’s November annual general meeting, at which point a chair will be elected, the group said.

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