Ridley Bell at Mountain Blue's River Run blueberry farm near Tabulam.
Ridley Bell at Mountain Blue's River Run blueberry farm near Tabulam. Susanna Freymark

Blueberry battle: Legal stoush over 'innovative' plant

NORTHERN Rivers-based blueberry company, Mountain Blue, has won a legal battle against another NSW grower accused of "unauthorised exploitation of its blueberry genetics".

The Federal Court of Australia recently ordered that a competitor on the Coffs Coast illegally infringed a variety of blueberry developed by Mountain Blue, which was protected by Australian intellectual property law.

The court ruled this grower engaged in unauthorised exploitation of the blueberry genetics.

Mountain Blue Farms are situated in Lindendale and Tabulam, and are famous for their large variety 'Eureka' blueberries.

Mountain Blue Managing Director, Andrew Bell said the grower had "sought to obtain a competitive advantage by not paying royalties and circumventing marketing restrictions associated with the variety with the specific intention of profiting from Mountain Blue's intellectual property."

After a significant legal battle, the court orders were handed down and Mountain Blue was awarded damages and court costs under the provisions of the Plant Breeder's Rights Act.

Mr Bell welcomed the result, and said his company invests heavily to ensure their growers can compete in increasingly competitive landscape.

"Mountain Blue invests millions of dollars every year to develop new cultivars, which are then licensed around the world," Mr Bell said.

"It is imperative that Plant Breeder's Rights are enforced for the future of Australian agriculture.

"Without enforcement, there would be a disincentive for companies like ours to invest in new cultivars that help the whole industry and ultimately provide better outcomes for consumers.

"It is crucial that Australian fruit and vegetable products are at the upper echelon so that we can compete in an increasingly globalised fruit and vegetable market."

Earlier this year amendments were made to the Plant Breeder's Rights Act, which introduced additional damages as a remedy for Plant Breeder's Rights infringement for the first time.

Mr Bell said he commended this move and said the act put companies like Mountain Blue in a stronger position "to take meaningful action against those that choose to do the wrong thing and seek a free ride at the expense of Australian agricultural innovators."

But, he said there was much more that can be done by the Australian Government "to improve intellectual property laws relating to agriculture and protect Australian agricultural innovations".



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