In a significant victory for the agriculture industry, International Fruit Genetics, LLC (IFG) has emerged triumphant in a plant variety rights infringement case in Yunnan, China. IFG, the world’s largest table grape breeder, holds an impressive collection of 48 patented table grape varieties and 10 patented sweet cherry varieties. The case in question involved the infringement of their proprietary grape varietal, IFG Six, sold under the trademark SWEET SAPPHIRE™ (IFG variety name “IFG Six”; Chinese variety name “IFG六” and Chinese trademark 甜蜜蓝宝石™).
Andy Higgins, International Fruit Genetics CEO, expressed his elation at the successful outcome: “This is a huge win for IFG and the entire agriculture industry. The goal of these legal actions is never to be punitive, but to create an environment where other plant variety rights holders feel comfortable and protected. We aim to bring the best varieties, technical and market support to the entire industry.”
The protection of intellectual property rights in the agricultural sector is vital to fostering innovation and ensuring that breeders, growers, marketers, and distributors receive fair recognition and compensation for their contributions. IFG’s commitment to enforcing plant variety rights not only safeguards their work but also protects the investments and commitments made by their licensees worldwide.
Over the years, IFG has taken proactive measures to secure plant variety rights for its products in China. To date, they have successfully obtained plant variety rights protection for 13 of their grape varieties in the country and registered several trademarks, including popular names like SWEET SAPPHIRE™, COTTON CANDY™, and SWEET GLOBE™.
The journey towards the recent victory began in 2020 when IFG launched evidence preservation and administrative complaints against unauthorized sales of propagation and harvested material of IFG varieties. Yunnan province was at the center of the infringement case, where IFG took legal action against an individual who illicitly produced and sold propagation and harvested material for IFG Six (sold under the trademark 甜蜜蓝宝石™). The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) of China acknowledged the infringement and imposed significant administrative fines against the offender, demonstrating the government’s commitment to protecting intellectual property rights in the agriculture sector.
IFG recognizes the importance of eradicating illegal plantations and unauthorized trading of its varieties in China. Doing so ensures the legitimate rights and interests of IFG and its licensed growers, marketers, and distributors worldwide remain safeguarded. To achieve this objective, IFG plans to continue its proactive cooperation with Chinese authorities to combat infringement activities and protect the commercial interests of itself and its licensees. The company values the Chinese market greatly and will persist in its efforts to provide high-quality fruits to Chinese customers.
Headquartered in Bakersfield, California, IFG is the world’s leading premium fruit-breeding company. Since its establishment in 2001, IFG has gained international recognition for its top-quality, non-GMO fruit varieties, especially in the table grape, cherry, and raisin industries. The company owes much of its success to the pioneering work of its co-founder and former Lead Plant Breeder, Dr. David Cain, a renowned fruit scientist. Following Dr. Cain’s retirement, the baton has been passed on to Dr. Chris Owens, who leads the team today. IFG operates through a system of patents and licenses, making its varieties available to marketers and growers worldwide, with licensees in 18 countries and its fruits actively marketed in over 30 countries.
IFG’s triumph in the plant variety rights infringement case marks a significant milestone for the agricultural industry. The protection of intellectual property rights plays a pivotal role in encouraging innovation and fostering a thriving agricultural sector. IFG’s dedication to defending its varieties not only safeguards its own interests but also ensures the well-being of its global partners. As they continue to provide high-quality fruits to the Chinese market and beyond, IFG’s commitment to excellence remains unwavering, setting a positive example for the entire agriculture community.
Image provided by International Fruit Genetics, LLC