The Court of Ragusa sentenced an Italian grower, accused of the illegal propagation of a registered tomato variety, to one-year imprisonment and a fine of EUR 15,000 under the Article 517ter. of the Italian Criminal Code “Manufacturing and sale of goods infringing the industrial property rights”. The Court also ordered the defendant to pay damages of EUR 70,000 to the parties involved plus EUR 16,000 of legal fees.
The case was initiated by the CIOPORA lawyer member Nicola Novaro on behalf of the Anti-Infringement Bureau for Intellectual Property Rights (AIB) followed by a claim filed by the variety titleholder. In the course of the investigation carried out by Guardia di Finanza on the grower’s premises, the inspectors discovered four greenhouses of illegally propagated tomato plants, whose genetic conformity to the protected variety was established by a DNA test. Neither the grower nor their legal representative was able to present any documentation confirming the plants’ origin.
Although the sentenced is likely to appeal, the Court’s ruling represents an important milestone in PBR enforcement as it confirms the applicability of the Criminal Code provisions in a case, where a seed-reproduced variety was propagated illegally by cuttings (asexually propagated). The Court decision is expected to be published soon.