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Sentence by the Court of Cassation concerning table grapes

Clauses in breeder contracts violating the Nadorcott ruling declared null and void

With a truly historic sentence, the Court of Cassation validated the thesis that the provisions set out by the "leases" of a seedless grape variety, according to which the fruits (and plants) remained subject to the power of the owner of the variety, even after payment for the use of the gems necessary to obtain the number of plants agreed, are contrary to public policy.

Unlike the previous judgements, the Supreme Court found the issue to be grounded (right from the interim ordinance) as well as of particularly relevance to safeguard competition as well as agricultural production, deferring the discussion to a public hearing.

In its April 9 judgement, the Court examined the contract provisions for which the owner reported a violation in light of the principles set out by the EU Court of Justice in the famous Nadorcott ruling, considering such clauses in contrast with the mandatory public order protection rules disapplied in the previous judgements.

Confirming the opinion of the Prosecutor General on the fact that the recognition to the owner of the plant variety of a property right on the plants and fruits obtained from the authorized use of varietal constituents represents a violation of the principles concerning the development of agriculture and free competition, the Court of Cassation annulled the judgement of the Milan Court of Appeal, affirming the following principle of law: "When it comes to the registered Community design concerning plant varieties, the contractual provision attributing to the owners of intellectual property rights of patented cultivars also the power to identify the subjects who shall only be entitled with the distribution of the fruits obtained from producers who were previously authorized to use the varietal constituents of the protected variety from which the fruits were produced where these were unusable as multiplication material, is null and void as it is contrary to public policy and constitutes a violation of art. 13, points 2 and 3 of (EC) Regulation of the Council no. 2100/94 in the interpretation provided by the Court of Justice."

The sentence is also fruit of the collaboration between Roberto Manno (the lawyer who assisted entrepreneur Angela Miglionico and her husband Gianni Stea) and Francesco Saverio Costantino (Lawyer for the Cassation judgement). According to Roberto Manno (in the photo), whom FreshPlaza already contacted in the past for legal matters concerning vegetable varieties, "the sentence of the Court of Cassation is essential for the interpretation of vegetable variety law, a process that is far from over, as shown by the activities at UPOV in Geneva. As lawyers from Puglia, my colleague Francesco Saverio Costantino and I are proud of having contributed to the pacification of relations between the owners of property rights and producers."

Numerous conflicts have in fact arisen over the past few years, especially in Puglia and concerning seedless varieties, also leading to a procedure brought to the Antitrust Authority whose judgement, unlike the Nadorcott ruling by the Court of Justice, was not considered at all binding by the Court of Cassation.

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