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Rooting Out Counterfeits


January 28, 2008
By Greenhouse Canada

Topics

The
illegal propagation of young plant material has been a huge problem in
all production regions over the world for years. Thankfully, resources
designed to fight counterfeiting have been developed in most countries
during the last decade. The primary goals are brand protection,
breeders’ rights and patent safeguarding.

The
illegal propagation of young plant material has been a huge problem in
all production regions over the world for years. Thankfully, resources
designed to fight counterfeiting have been developed in most countries
during the last decade. The primary goals are brand protection,
breeders’ rights and patent safeguarding.

In addition to these
controls, customers have to sign licence agreements, distribution
contracts and so-called “non-propagation agreements.” Several
organizations have also been created to fight illegal propagation and
counterfeiting. Of these organizations, an intergovernmental
organization called “the International Union for the Protection of New
Varieties of Plants” (UPOV), with headquarters in Geneva, is the most
well known.

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RijnPlant markets its young anthurium,
bougainvillea and calathea varieties plant material worldwide. The
company sometimes discovers some of its varieties being propagated,
bred or grown illegally by one or more companies in different
countries. However, due to the legal protections RijnPlant has placed
on its products, it can act on these infringements as soon as they
occur.

Last year, RijnPlant became aware of a number of growers
(none in North America) who were illegally propagating, breeding and
growing RijnPlant’s bougainvillea “Vera” variety, though not all
parties may have been aware they were transgressing the law.

Hortis
Holland, a service provider specializing in breeders’ rights and
employed as royalty watcher by RijnPlant, discovered this network.

Director Lennard van Vliet came across illegally produced ‘Vera’ during visits to propagators, growers and auctions in Japan.

This
was the beginning of a long process. First, written notification of
their infringement was given to all parties involved, including the
growers, supplier and initial propagator in three countries.

RijnPlant
then offered them a choice. They could either pay the backlog of
royalties owed on the illegal products and subsequently only order
through agents of the breeder, or RijnPlant would press legal action,
during which time the companies’ assets would be frozen, possibly
resulting in the destruction of the illegal cultivation. All 20
companies (in Japan, Israel and the Netherlands) agreed to settle out
of court. Both Hortis Holland and its fellow royalty watcher, Royalty
Administration International, made a great contribution to this case,
which ended positively for RijnPlant.

Unfortunately, illegal
propagation is still carried out on a daily basis. It takes lots of
patience and endurance to combat it. In this case, it took both
RijnPlant and Hortis Holland over six months to monitor the network and
take the necessary legal steps.

DNA research on plants will
greatly assist breeders in the future. Protected plants will be
compared to counterfeit varieties by comparing the DNA structure,
thereby ensuring quick identification of illegal products.

Together
with all its international customers, RijnPlant will monitor world
markets for illegally produced varieties, working to protect its rights
and those of its fellow producers.


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