Tech & Science : Mountain Blue orchards wins intellectual property case over rip-off blueberry variety - - PressFrom - Australia

Tech & Science Mountain Blue orchards wins intellectual property case over rip-off blueberry variety

10:35  09 november  2019
10:35  09 november  2019 Source:

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A blueberry grower has won a test case that it rightfully owned a designer blueberry Ridley 1111, sending a warning to about plant breeders rights.

Australian-based company Mountain Blue has successfully defended its intellectual property by winning a legal battle against a grower in the Coffs The Federal Court of Australia recently ordered that a competitor illegally infringed a variety of blueberry developed by Mountain Blue , which was

a hand holding a plant: Laws have been strengthened to protect the intellectual property of plant breeders. (Supplied: Mountain Blue)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Laws have been strengthened to protect the intellectual property of plant breeders. (Supplied: Mountain Blue)

We hear more about rip-offs of art and fashion but plant varieties are also being ripped-off, and a court has sent a message about plant breeders' intellectual property rights.

Mountain Blue Orchards has successfully protected its intellectual property after one of its blueberry varieties was the subject of a protracted legal battle.

The court ordered the company be paid $290,000 in damages to be paid by Jason Chellew, a grower from the NSW mid-north coast, who was found to have unlawfully obtained, grown and sold a protected berry variety, referred to as Ridley 1111.

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Blueberries grow in clusters and not all the berries ripen at the same time. One cluster may have ripe fruit, unripe fruit and green fruit. A berry may look ripe, but if you turn it over and the stem end is still red or green, it is far from ripe. A fully ripe blueberry is deep blue , even near the stem.

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Mr Chellew declined to comment when approached by the ABC.

Mountain Blue's managing director Andrew Bell said he was confident the case would deter growers trying to create rip-offs and to obtain and purchase plants through the proper processes.

"It sends a really strong message that you can't cut corners," Mr Bell said.

Case sets a precedent for all plant industries

The case was closely watched by other plant industry which are spending a lot of money and time developing new varieties.

The group Pulses Australia, representing legume and pulse growers and researchers said the federal court ruling last month set a "clear precedent" about the importance of plant breeders' intellectual property and the severe penalties for infringements.

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Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect . There are many types of intellectual property

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"This case really is a wake up call across the broader industry of all sorts of plants," Pulses Australia chief executive Nick Goddard said.

"We've all grown up knowing you can't launch a brand of cola and call it Coca Cola because that name is protected.

"I think there's growing awareness that [concept] similarly applies to the genetics of plants, but perhaps it's not widely known enough."

He said as drought-resistant crops and other innovations are developed, the nation's food producers are increasingly protecting their creations under plant breeders rights (PBR).

The Mountain Blue case was one of the first under changes to the Plant Breeder's Rights Act — a federal law that enforces protections to certain plant varieties.

Under the law, breeders can licence their varieties to various growers and impose royalties, which helps cover breeding costs and reinvestment in future developments.

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These are placed horizontally over the moist peat/sand mix and then lightly covered. It is then covered in clear plastic and placed in a shady location until new shoots appear. Once they’re rooted, all the cuttings can be planted into the garden.

Mr Goddard said these laws were vital for continued innovation for consumers, from seedless watermelons to enhancing the genetics to create the best, tastiest fruit.

"I don't think the general public is aware of the investment that goes on behind simple things like a blueberry or a petunia in the garden, and yet there are extensive investments going on to improve these varieties all the time," he said.

Law changes 'long-overdue'

Intellectual property lawyer David Longmuir said the case would "be an effective tool in showing that plant breeders rights [PBR] can be quickly and effectively enforced to the industry."

Mr Longmuir said the "long-overdue" changes had made it easier to enforce breeders' rights and strengthened damages for infringement — bringing them into line with other intellectual property rights.

"[The case] should act as both a deterrent and encouragement of other breeders to take action where necessary to enforce their rights," Mr Longmuir said.

He said before changes to the act, very few cases under the Plant Breeders Rights Act had gone before the federal court because breeders were unable to recover the costs involved.

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Blueberries are perennial flowering plants with blue – or purple–colored berries . They are classified in the section Cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinium. Vaccinium also includes cranberries, bilberries, huckleberries and Madeira blueberries .

Wait until they turn blue . They should fall off right into your hand with no tugging on the delicate berry required. Blueberry harvesting season can be When harvesting blueberries , choose those that are blue all the way around the berry – white and green blueberries do not ripen further once they are

Unlike rip-offs of top fashion brands and music, Mr Longmuir said proving whether a plant is protected or not remains a difficult process.

These challenges, he said, can make tracking infringements of PBR hard.

"It's very easy to grow plants that would be infringements of a PBR, and less easy to prove that conduct has happened and enforce it," he said.

DNA samples tested in France

Mountain Blue told the ABC its 10-month legal battle involved accessing and sending samples of the stolen plants to France for DNA testing to prove its case.

Mr Longmuir said many breeders, like Mr Bell, are turning to DNA testing to help prove breaches of PBR, but he said more regulation is needed to provide owners guidance about the evidence required, and ways to obtain it.

For now, Mr Bell hoped his experience would help drive innovation across horticulture and beyond to produce the best produce on the world stage.

"We need to provide incentives for plant breeders to continue to push the bar and produce new cultivar bars so that Australia can continue to compete on an increasingly global landscape."

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