Plant Variety Rights: EU Officials Seize Unlicensed Strawberries

Plant Variety Rights Infringement - StrawberriesA fruit industry publication reports that in the last growing season, European Union officials invoked EU customs laws to impound the importation from Egypt of mass quantities of strawberries that infringed the plant variety rights of the University of Florida. See Italy: New seizures of unlicenced strawberries imported to the EU, Fresh Plaza (Mar. 1, 2013). According to Fresh Plaza, Ekland Marketing Company–the exclusive licensee of the University’s Festival, Sweet Charlie, Winter Dawn, and Fortuna strawberry varieties–worked closely with EU customs officials, who “detained dozens of loads of unlicenced strawberries produced in Egypt.”

As explained by Ekland’s Egyptian representative, “Egyptian fruit growers export 30 thousand tons of fresh strawberries each season. University of Florida strawberry varieties now have over 90 percent of the market share for Egyptian strawberry exports.” Although the number of licensed Egyptian growers has increased in recent years, many farmers still grow the protected varieties without a proper license. Johnny Loff, Ekland’s vice president, said that the application of intellectual property customs measures at EU entry points imposes a heavy cost on growers of infringing plants: “Because fresh strawberries are highly perishable, custom’s interdiction creates a huge problem for an unlicensed exporter.”

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