Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Italian seed company fined

Italian company Societa Agricola Sicil Vival A R.L. has been fined $78,780.50 and eight months in prison for violating plant breeders rights on tomatoes.

It was also ordered to pay almost $144,000 in fees.

The Court of Ragusa sentenced Gaetano Senia and Bartolomeo Bernini, legal representatives of a nursery in Vittoria, in the province of Ragusa, where a PBR protected tomato variety was being cultivated without the required authorization. 

This is the second ruling of its type in Italy. The process began with a complaint filed by the AIB (Anti-Infringement Bureau for Intellectual Property Rights in Plant Material), an international association established under Belgian law whose objective is to fight against illegal activity in the seed sector. During the investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor of Ragusa, DNA analysis was carried out on the Società Agricola Sicil Vivai A R.L. company’s crops, which confirmed the presence of the PBR protected tomato variety in its greenhouses. 

The Ragusa financial police confirmed that the company was unable to provide purchase invoices for seedlings of the protected variety or other documentation demonstrating the legitimate origin of the seeds used.

The sentence creates a significant precedent in the seed sector, because it gives criminal significance to the widespread technique of reproducing plants covered by Plant Breeders Rights with cuttings or "stubs" of plants, a practice which damage the protected rights of the owners of the varieties, under which each seed purchased must correspond to only one plant.