Blackberry cooperation ends with damage claims back and forth

For four years, a Spanish company grew blackberry varieties licensed to an international soft fruit trading company. The agreement came to an end after four years, following wrangling over an audit for working conditions and problems with a delayed harvest. Both parties now want compensation from each other. The Zeeland-West Brabant District Court rejected both claims on 17 May.

The agreement reached between the two parties in 2014 stipulated that the Spaniards could grow certain varieties with intellectual property rights on them. The plants remained the property of the trading company, the harvest belonged to the Spaniards. However, the latter had to sell the blackberries exclusively to the trading company. The Spaniards also had to follow the instructions and conditions of the trading company.

Working conditions
Reports of alleged labor abuses by Moroccan media then put a kink in the works. The trading party wants an audit, the Spaniards do not. Meanwhile, the harvest is delayed. After again insisting on an audit, the Spanish have done it themselves, at their own expense.

In the end, the trading company does not take the blackberries. The cooperation ends. Both parties claim damages. The Spaniards wanted over 220 thousand euros for blackberries not bought and compensation for the removal of the blackberry plants. The trading company wants over 34 thousand euros and believes the Spaniards have breached the agreement.

Neither party is vindicated by the court. According to the court, the Spaniards do not put forward enough arguments to prove their case. The trading company is also not vindicated because the court points out that the agreement did not stipulate that the Spaniards had to cooperate with an audit. It does contain a passage about allowing people onto the cultivation site for an audit, but that alone is not enough, according to the court.

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