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No patent for purple radish sprouts

Taste of Nature has lost an appeal to get a patent on purple radish sprouts. This is because the product had already been introduced to the general public before the patent application. This means the product, put on the market by Koppert Cress, may be cultivated, without a license by other growers.

This has been a long, drawn out issue between Cresco and Taste of Nature. Taste of Nature had a patent on purple radish sprouts. Until 2010, according to the stipulations in the patent, Cresco got this product from the trading company, Koppert Cress. When this relationship ended, the legal cases began. The parties took each other to court on numerous occasions, and the patent was upheld for a long time. Two years ago this changed. One of the reasons for this was that the product was known to the public before the patent was awarded. The purple radish sprouts were presented at the 2010 Fruit and Vegetable (AGF) Innovation Awards where several seeds were handed out.

So, the patent was rejected. An appeal was made against this ruling. It was mainly about the technical details: how the patent was formulated; the precise anthocyanin content of the sprouts; and the exact colour purple the germinated seeds must be, down to the nano metre. Taste of Nature wanted to show that the previously presented product was different, and of an inferior quality to the patented one. The judge did not agree. According to judiciary, since the seeds handed out grew into decent purple sprouts, it is the patented product, which was already known on the market before the patent date. This means it is not a new product and a patent cannot be applied for, they ruled.

Cresco 'euphoric'
Rita Prins of Cresco is euphoric after this judgment. "After seven long years of fighting, there is finally justice." Cresco was at the AGF Innovation awards and could, therefore, supply relevant supporting documents. She credits Bart Vosselman, a breeder at De Bolster. He worked hard on behalf of Bionext at the discussions regarding patents, and how to interpret them. Rita states that this contributed to the judge's decision making process. "We are still on cloud nine. We were only supposed to get the verdict on 12 September. Yesterday we, unexpectedly, heard the results."

"No more protection"
Koppert Cress is, for obvious reasons, less happy with the outcome. "The court took the easy route," was Rob Baan's reaction. "Sprouts can only be protected via growers' and/or patent rights. Growers' rights for sprouts in Europe and, so, in the Netherlands, may not be registered via the NAKG, via Plantum. This leaves only patent rights for an innovative business like that of Gerrit Koppert in 2001." Koppert Cress is this company's successor.

He continues: "What people do not realise is that, if your product is illegally copied, the offending party will not deny it. All they will say is that the product was not yours to begin with, so it could not be stolen. Cresco's legal team successfully caused confusion about public use. This was done to such as degree that the judge turned down the patent on the grounds of prior use." This prior use is the presentation of the Sango sprouts, in preparation of the AGF Awards in 2001. "We are considering the verdict, and are deciding what our next legal recourse will be," he says.

Publication date: 8/31/2017


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