International Fruit Genetics (IFG) has finally come to the end of infringement proceedings in which it sought to protect its proprietary grape varietals in the Western Cape, South Africa.
During 2010, the breeder concluded a suite of licensing, planting, and marketing agreements with a table grape grower in Paarl, South Africa, as well as other associated farming entities.
"In terms of the agreements, the grower was licensed to plant, grow and market several IFG grape varieties in South Africa, which was done successfully over several years," the company said in a statement.
"However, during an inspection, IFG determined that this grower had unlawfully propagated some of the varietals beyond license limits and was growing and propagating an IFG varietal before protection for the variety was granted in South Africa.
"Upon further investigation, IFG determined that the grower had stolen a slip of the varietal from one of the IFG founder's vineyards in California while visiting and had transported it to South Africa, where it was grafted, propagated, and commercially grown."
The company said that "due to the growers' unlawful conduct", it canceled all of the agreements it had with the licensee and asked that the grower cease all use of its proprietary plant material and destroy all of its proprietary plant material by cutting off all vines below the graft union.
"Unfortunately, the grower refused to do so, forcing IFG to take more drastic measures, including the freezing of bank accounts and contempt of court proceedings for failure to comply with the court's orders," the company said.
Ultimately, when it became clear to the grower that IFG was taking the necessary steps required to protect their intellectual property, the grower agreed and complied by cutting the vines below the graft union on all proprietary varietals, the company said.
IFG said this case marks a "stunning success" for itself and all owners of plant breeders' rights. Respect for these rights allows breeders globally to make the continued investments, ensuring that the table grape industry has a bright and vibrant future, it said.
“It was a long road, and we are glad to come to the end of it, but we have no regrets,” said Andy Higgins, CEO of IFG.
“Our intellectual property rights are the heart of our business, and we need to protect them. We will not hesitate to take similar action in other parts of the world should there be a need to do so.”