United Exports is pleased to have reached agreement with the Rossouw Farming Group over the licence breach which led to the seizure and confiscation of two blueberry container shipments in Rotterdam recently.
In terms of the agreement reached, both Rosle Berries and Ross Berries of the Rossouw Farming Group have recognised the plant based intellectual property rights, and United Exports’ rights over its OZblu® proprietary varieties. This is an important step forward for the protection of intellectual property rights in South Africa.
United Exports’ market-leading OZblu® blueberry varieties are the result of a sizeable investment in extensive research and development which has been conducted over more than three decades. The protection and respect of plant based intellectual property rights by farmers in South Africa is critical to the stability and growth of South Africa’s agricultural economy.
United Exports has agreed to allow Ross Berries to sell the blueberries from the remaining few weeks of the 2020 season that it produces on its Western Cape farm to avoid unnecessary food wastage. The sales, however, cannot use or leverage any of United Exports’ trademarks, trade names, brands, varietals or any related denomination.
When the 2020 season is over, the Rossouw Farming Group’s right to continue to produce United Exports’ OZblu® proprietary blueberries must be newly agreed with United Exports, failing which the Rossouw Farming Group’s right to continue to produce United Export’s OZblu® proprietary blueberry will terminate.
Earlier this month, the European Union Customs Authority confiscated two shipments of United Exports varietals unlawfully exported by Ross Berries. The EU Customs Authority had correctly recognised that Ross Berries was trading in United Exports’ Community Plant Variety Rights without United Exports’ consent. In terms of the agreement reached between the parties, the confiscated blueberries can be released to Ross Berries provided that none of the blueberries are continued to be marketed or sold by Ross Berries and its agents under the United Exports’ trademarks, trade names, variety names or any derivative thereof, as court papers showed clearly to date had been the case.
The suggestion by Ross Berries and the Rossouw Farming Group that the interim arrangement reached with United Exports is a victory for blueberry growers is patently false, and misunderstands the legal and commercial consequences of violating United Exports’ proprietary rights. These rights will now form the backdrop of further confidential arbitration proceedings between the parties.
United Exports looks forward to playing its part in growing the future of innovative blueberries in South Africa, and the world.