Morocco’s royal family wins legal battle against Spanish farmer over unlicensed Nadorcott production
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled in the favor of Morocco’s Royal Family in a legal battle against a Spanish farmer over the unlicensed exploitation of the Nadorcott mandarin.
The matter was referred to the European Justice by the Supreme Court, which must decide whether the Nadorcott Protection SARL company - which is owned by the Moroccan royal family and owns the Nadorcott mandarin variety - retains the right to take legal action for cultivating the variety without permission or if that right prescribed after the three-year period established by European regulations.
The matter dates back to 2007, the year in which Nadorcott Protection sent the society of Jose Canovas Pardo the first request to stop the exploitation of the protected variety in the town of Alhama de Murcia, which cultivated 4,457 Nadorcott mandarin trees in 2006, as long as they didn't apply for the corresponding license.
Subsequently, in 2011, the company filed a lawsuit before a Commercial Court to declare the infringement of the legitimate rights over the variety since 2006 and until the exploitation ceased, according to Spanish website La Opinion De Murcia.
It also requested that the Murcian society be condemned to stop exploiting the controversial variety, to eliminate and destroy any material of this variety, and to pay compensation of 35,000 euro.
However, a first ruling ruled in favor of the Murcian farmer by considering that the period provided for in European standards had expired. The regulation, in particular, establishes that the holder's right to take legal action "shall prescribe after three years from the date on which the community plant variety protection was finally granted and the holder had knowledge of the act and the identity of the offender." This plant variety has been protected in the EU since 2004.
Nadorcott Protection appealed the ruling before the Murcia Provincial Court, which later ruled that the acts of infringement had been repeated over time and that the prescription had been interrupted in November 2009, when preliminary proceedings were opened. Consequently, they stated, only the acts of exploitation carried out more than three years before that date had prescribed.
Finally, the Murcian farmer's society filed a cassation appeal before the Supreme Court questioning the interpretation of the statute of limitations of the Provincial Court of Murcia.
The Nadorcott mandarins were also the subject of another legal court battle, between its Moroccan owners and the scientists of the University of California Riverside, when they developed another, similar, variety of the fruit.
For Morocco, the new variety called “Tango” is essentially the same as the one that originated in Morocco but is sold in Spain and other places like South Africa under a different name. In 2016, European Union’s Community Plant Variety Office ruled in favor of the Tango variety.