ENZAFruit has won a landmark plant variety rights infringement civil case in China after local growers were found to be illegally growing its Envy apple variety there.
The victory in the Lanzhou Intermediate Court in China’s Gansu Province awarded ENZAFruit its full claim for significant damages.
Envy is the brand name for Scilate, one of New Zealand’s leading apple varieties. It is legitimately grown in China with ENZAFruit’s partner, Joy Wing Mau.
ENZAFruit’s Morgan Rogers said its Scilate apples and Envy brand are renowned globally, with consumers and customers in over 60 countries seeking them out.
“Significant research, development, marketing and sales investment has gone into creating the unique variety and building our premium Envy brand, which is why we strongly protect and defend our IP to ensure its value flows through to consumers, customers, licensed growers and communities,” Rogers said.
The significant court award comes after China’s revised Seed Law was implemented in March 2022. Previously, the Seed Law did not protect any harvested fruit, but the new regulations now extend to both the fruit and the propagation material of any protected variety.
ENZAFruit was assisted in the case by Lusheng, a Chinese law firm that specialises in multinational intellectual property cases.
Lusheng oversaw the investigation, evidence collection and analysis during the saplings planting and fruit harvesting seasons, with the court hearing and litigation process taking 10 months from filing in September 2022.
Lusheng’s IP litigation team ensured all evidence was expertly collected from several orchard sites in China to capture the necessary propagation materials and conduct DNA analysis to be presented as evidence in court. This was achieved against a combination of difficult economic and logistical challenges arising from the global Covid pandemic.
Rogers thanked Lusheng for its support in protecting ENZAFruit’s IP in China and ensuring its Chinese growing partners’ investment was protected.
One of the case’s lead attorneys, Lusheng digital and commercial team principal Sunny Su, said the decision will be well received by the wider agriculture sector and any food business exporting goods to China.
The case sets a precedent for future vegetative propagation plant variety rights (PVR) cases and will help boost the confidence of the agrifood industry in China to tackle any challenging PVR infringement cases related to produce.