Tons of counterfeit grapes destroyed in Italy

The Italian producer of a proprietary variety of white seedless grape has said it was able to get a large container shipment of counterfeit grapes from Egypt seized and destroyed by the authorities.

Grapa Varieties – a family-owned business specialising in breeding and licensing of table grapes – said the destruction of 16 tons of counterfeit copies of its Early Sweet variety is “a major victory for intellectual property rights protection.”

Breeding proprietary varieties of fruit is a highly skilled endeavour and demands significant resources in land, equipment, manpower and time, but the resulting product is easy to reproduce, making protection of IP rights particularly challenging.

For organised crime, infringing plant variety rights is something of a low-hanging fruit – if you pardon the pun – with significant rewards and relatively low risks.

In a LinkedIn post, the company reveals that the shipment was seized at the port of Ravenna in Italy by customs officials en route to a company in Verona. It was labelled as another grape variety called Sugraone in an attempt to conceal its true identity, which according to Grapa Varieties is “a common method to smuggle illegal grapes into the market.”

The shipment was eventually confirmed as being the result of illegal production of the Early Sweet variety using DNA testing, and the case has now been referred to prosecutors in Italy as well as the authorities in Egypt. The

Grapa Varieties said it has been working with European customs to crack down on the illegal trade, noting this was the fourth container destroyed in recent years. Moreover, in a court ruling last year, more than 9,000 vines of illegal Early Sweet grapes were ordered to be destroyed in Egypt.

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