Van Noort forced to stop growing geranium type after DNA testing

Dutch grower and breeder Marco Van Noort has lost a EUR200,000 licensing dispute with Blooms of Bressingham North America after DNA testing revealed "virtually no differences" between geraniums marketed by the two companies.

Van Noort has agreed to cease trading his 'Jolly Bee' variety, which Blooms of Bressingham NA said was too similar to its Rozanne 'Gerwat' cultivar.

The dispute lasted more than seven years since 'Jolly Bee' was granted protection by Plant Variety Rights (PVRs) in 2003, three years after the introduction of Rozanne.

Marco Van Noort said he was devastated by the decision, claiming the battle had cost him in excess of EUR200,000 and disputing Bressingham's description of an amicable settlement.

"We are not hostile because I am in the corner with my hands and feet tied up," he said. "What they did isn't friendly. We are a small nursery and I can't explain what a bad feeling this is. I'm not used to that sort of thing. I'm a breeder and a grower and this is another world. In the end I just said they could keep it because it was costing too much money with lawyers. At one point we thought we would have to close the nursery but now we have decided to try to carry on."

Though he did not dispute the findings, Van Noort described them as strange, pointing to the different sizes of the two varieties.

A statement released by Blooms of Bressingham NA said: "Independent DNA research revealed that there are virtually no differences in the DNA of both varieties. In addition, new investigations revealed that both varieties are not, at least not clearly, distinct from one another from a morphological point of view.

"Blooms of Bressingham NA recently informed Marco Van Noort about these test results and requested that Van Noort cease and desist the exploitation of 'Jolly Bee.' The settlement between parties has been concluded in a good manner and relationship."

The agreement reached will see trading of 'Jolly Bee' end no later than 1 July, at which time its PVRs will be cancelled.

Blooms of Bressingham NA president Gary Doerr said: "The approach Blooms took is one model for future situations. An independent lab in the Netherlands conducted a morphological comparison and a DNA tracer examination. In both cases, the two varieties were shown to be remarkably similar. Morphological and DNA examination go hand in hand. Morphological testing involves examination of the plants grown side by side.

"Everyone will draw their own conclusions as to whether they are exactly the same. However, Blooms of Bressingham, Marco van Noort and Witteman & Co agreed that the two cultivars were not different enough to warrant the two varieties co-existing in the marketplace."

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