The Baker McKenzie FenXun (FTZ) Joint Operation has helped to secure a landmark win for International Fruit Genetics (IFG) in a plant variety right (PVR) infringement case in Yunnan, China.

The infringement involved IFG's proprietary grape variety IFG Six (Chinese variety name IFG六), which is sold under the trademark Sweet Sapphire (Chinese trademark 甜蜜蓝宝石).

The local Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) acknowledged the infringement and imposed significant administrative fines against the infringer, which had illegally produced and sold propagation and harvested material for IFG Six (sold under the trademark 甜蜜蓝宝石).

IFG is the largest private breeder of table grapes in the world and breeds some of the most popular grape varieties on the market. The company has obtained plant variety rights protection for 13 of its grape varieties in China, among them IFG Six (sold under the trademark Sweet Sapphire™), IFG Ten (sold under the trademark Sweet Globe™) and IFG Eleven (sold under the trademark Sugar Crisp™).

IFG aims to eliminate the illegal plantations of and unauthorized trading in IFG varieties in China to protect the legitimate rights and interests of IFG and its licensed growers, marketers, and distributors worldwide. The fruit breeder also intends to continue proactively seeking cooperation with authorities in China to combat infringement activities and safeguard the commercial interests of itself and its licensees. IFG greatly values the Chinese market and will continue its efforts to provide high-quality fruits to Chinese customers.

This win is the latest on the long list of victories that Baker McKenzie FenXun has helped to secure for IFG, including, among others, successful administrative actions against illegal plantations and unauthorized trading and promotion of IFG's grape varieties in both Jiangsu and Shaanxi provinces. Notwithstanding the various obstacles such as Covid restrictions and lockdowns in this case, the Firm has managed to achieve another significant milestone in terms of IFG’s PVR protection efforts in China.

The team was led by IP Partner Andrew Sim of Baker McKenzie, supported by associate Jacqueline Wang of FenXun Partners, Baker McKenzie's joint operation platform partner in China.

Commenting on the matter, Andrew Sim, who heads the Firm's global plant variety rights practice, said:

"This is a landmark win under the newly amended PRC Seed Law. This case, as well as our past wins, showcases our strengths in IP and PVR issues, and we couldn't be more pleased to have helped to secure another victory for our client. We look forward to building on this success and work closely with plant breeders to safeguard their IP rights and commercial interests in China."

And from IFG’s CEO Andy Higgins directly:

“This is a huge win for IFG and the entire agriculture industry. The goal with these types of legal action is never to be punitive, but to create an environment where other plant variety rights holders feel comfortable and protected. We aim to bring forward the best varieties, technical and market support to the entire industry.”

Andy Higgins, IFG CEO, continued: “It is vital to what we do as breeders that we pursue all IP infringements to protect not only our work, but also the investments and commitments our licensees have made to IFG genetics.”

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