South Africa: Hortgro 'concerned' by blueberry IP rights dispute

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South Africa: Hortgro 'concerned' by blueberry IP rights dispute

South Africa industry body Hortgro says it has "noted with concern" the ongoing dispute in the blueberry industry between one of the country's grower-exporters and Australia-based United Exports.

Hortgro, an umbrella association for the pome fruit and stone fruit industries, says the conflict "is a private commercial matter and should be handled as such".

Two shipments of OZblu blueberries shipped by South Africa-based Rossouw Farming Group were seized by Dutch customs in October and November, with United Exports saying its varieties were grown and exported without its permission.

The two sides in mid-November reached an agreement that would allow the sized berries to be released and also allow Rossouw Farming Group to continue shipping the berries for the rest of the season without using the OZblu trademark.

But the legal battle continues, with the dispute pertaining to ownership of the plants to be determined in March 2021.

Hortgro said in a statement: "Given the potential negative impact on other industries with regard to continued access to the latest global genetics and plant material by the South African fruit industries, Hortgro was requested to express its principled stance on IP and related PBR [plant breeders' rights] as such material forms the backbone of our continued relevant and internationally competitive industry."

"Therefore, the negative impact such public disputes could have on the broader standing of South Africa as a respected and trustworthy global partner is being regretted."

Hortgro added that it wishes to state its stance on IP and related PBR as follows:

  • Re-confirm its principled support to and recognition of international conventions and legislation which guides all matters relating to the protection of IP/PBR;
  • Assure international breeders, owners and license holders that the South African Pome and Stone fruit industries fully subscribes to and respects IP and related PBR aligned with conventions and legislation;
  • Respects the right to control and regulate the marketing and trading conditions of produce, including the charging of royalties, on condition that such arrangements are fair, clear and formally agreed to prior to the planting of related plant material;
  • Encourage South African producers and other industry stakeholders to continue to respect and comply with legal agreements and international convention governing IP and related issues; and for
  • Global IP/PBR owners to continue to trust the South African industry that it will respect their rights and welcomes the continued access to the latest technology, genetics, innovation and plant material available from global sources.

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