Plant Variety Rights Case: Court Orders Claimant to Return Seized Items

Dutch Court Dismisses Plant Variety Rights Infringement ClaimsIn an opinion issued April 25, 2013, a Dutch court in the city of Roermond found no basis for plant variety rights infringement claims brought by the Anti-Infringement Bureau for Intellectual Property Rights on Plant Material (AIB), a Brussels-based association that represents major companies in the vegetable seed industry. See Anti-Infringement Bureau for Intellectual Property Rights on Plant Material v. Novisem B.V., No. C/04/l220l3 / KG ZA 13-63 (Roermond Civil Court Apr. 2013). AIB contended that Dutch vegetable seed company Novisem B.V. had infringed plant variety rights relating to  three celery varieties known as Diamond, Brilliant, and Prinz. Novisem is described by the court as “a breeding company engaged in development, production and sale of seeds of celery, chicory, gardening and pole beans.” The variety rights to the Diamond, Brilliant, and Prinz varieties are owned by two of AIB’s member companies, Nunhems B.V. and Bejo Zaden B.V.

Court Orders Return of Items Seized in Plant Variety Rights Infringement CaseOn March 18, 2013, after obtaining court approval, AIB effectuated a seizure of evidence at Novisem’s premises in Baarlo, the Netherlands. At that time, quoted AIB’s managing director, Casper van Kempen, as saying that, “Cases like this cost time, but this seizure shows our determination to stop alleged infringements.” See Netherlands: Alleged infringement on plant variety rights seizure at seed company Novisem.

AIB contended, among other things, that the seizure showed that Novisem was unlawfully reproducing plants of the protected varieties for sale. Novisem defended that it was availing itself of the “breeder’s exemption” to plant variety protection, which permits a breeder to use protected varieties as the sources of initial variations to create new varieties of plants. AIB argued, however, that Novisem possessed significantly more plant material than was required for breeding purposes. Novisem presented to the court statements by its breeders, which contradicted AIB’s assertions. On this point and others, the court agreed with Novisem.

Dutch Court Orders Return of Materials Seized in Plant Variety Rights Infringement Case
Correction Notice Printed on AIB’s Website

In its April 25 ruling, the court found “no reasonable grounds” for the claim that Novisem had infringed the purported plant variety rights. The court ordered AIB to return to Novisem return all of plant samples and copies of data seized from Novisem, and to pay Novisem €15,575, representing Novisem’s costs and counterclaim damages. The court also directed AIB to place a correction on its website–a mandate that AIB fulfilled by posting the “Rectificatie” notice illustrated in this article.

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