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The latest traceability technology used to successfully enforce IP rights over illegal usage

Australian Nurserymen's Fruit Improvement Company (ANFIC) has become the first Australian Intellectual Property and Commercialisation company to partner with scientific traceability company Oritain, to successfully enforce its IP rights on various nurseries and growers.

In a recent investigation, ANFIC discovered instances of unauthorised propagation, sale and supply of Krymsk® 5 (VSL-2 cv.) Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) protected cherry rootstocks in Victoria and Tasmania. ANFIC CEO, Dr Gavin Porter says some of these protected rootstocks had also been field grafted to PBR protected and ANFIC managed cherry varieties.

ANFIC has heavily invested in the use of Oritain’s origin fingerprinting technology as part of this investigation into the unauthorised propagation, supply and planting of these PBR protected rootstocks. Oritain’s scientific verification proved invaluable in tracing plant material back to its source and enforcing any wrongdoing. Oritain use forensic science to unlock the natural code in fruit and plant material, scientifically verifying origin.

“If you want to be certain where a product has come from, you need to test the ‘product’ itself," Oritain Australia Managing Director, Sandon Adams said. "Luckily, mother nature embeds all things with a unique code based on where in the world they were produced. This natural code is created from the exact geochemistry of the product’s environment. Some environments are nutrient rich, some are poor, some are high in elements, some are low. These differences are what we measure, using the results to create an origin fingerprint for a product. Origin fingerprints for various production areas have been mapped, which we then use to scientifically verify where a product has originated."

As a result, settlement was completed before legal proceedings were undertaken and the rightful owners were compensated for the wrongdoing.

Dr Porter says it is in everyone’s interest to protect proprietary fruit varieties and rootstocks to ensure that the ‘new variety and rootstock pipeline’ is open to all Australian growers, which authorised growers rely on for maintaining any competitive advantage within the Australian fruit industry. To this end the organisation has made it mandatory for parties who deal with these protected varieties to enter into non-propagation agreements. The purpose of these agreements is to ensure accountability.

He explained that consumers want new products that are better to eat or have other qualities that may appeal to them. Fruit breeders around the world work for years to develop such varieties in addition to disease and environment tolerant rootstocks to assist growers meet ever-changing orchard conditions.

Such varieties and rootstocks are imported into Australia by Intellectual Property Managers who want to produce this ‘next generation’ fruit enabling Australian growers to compete in a global marketplace.

It is the higher quality, type and appeal of new varieties, that separates proprietary varieties from commodity varieties, according to Dr Porter. Growers are central to this process. They take most of the commercial risk when they invest in a new proprietary variety or rootstock to remain competitive. It is therefore imperative that the growers in the industry play fair and remain honest. It is unfair that a small number of individuals ‘free ride’ on legitimate growers by illegally propagating and planting trees.

ANFIC says it is committed to enforcing these agreements to provide fairness across the industry and will continue to work with growers, packers and marketers to ensure they follow the right protocol and process to protect IP rights associated with proprietary varieties and rootstocks. As part of this process further orchard audits will take place to ensure compliance across the board.

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