Ron van der Ploeg

Royal FloraHolland categorically denies copyright infringement and refuses to pay

THE HAGUE, Netherlands:  Royal FloraHolland refuses to recognise the copyright case brought against it by Floration Europe. All was not rosy in the District Court in The Hague yesterday, with the auction refusing to pay a cent.

With the lawsuit, Floration Europe seeks acknowledgement of Royal FloraHolland’s alleged patent infringement of sea transportation of roses and chrysanthemums from Africa and South America. As a patent holder, it demands a payable penalty.

The judge, Mr. M. Knijff, asked: “What would happen if I impose an injunction on Royal FloraHolland? The auction’s lawyer, Mr P. Duijssens’ answer left no room for doubt. He said that the world will not collapse if the import by sea container is prohibited until 2027, the revocation date of the patent.

According to the lawyer, there is hardly any difference in costs between transporting roses by sea container or by air cargo.

According to Floration Europe, Royal FloraHolland is widely infringing its patent on its method of packaging roses and chrysanthemums. This patent would allow roses and chrysanthemums to  arrive in the Netherlands in good condition after the sea container’s weeks-long voyage.

Floration Europe reportedly learned that two containers had shipped from Africa on 15 February, and eight more were planned through an anonymous informant.

Royal FloraHolland disputes this and holds the figure at a maximum of four containers. Two containers arrived last week. Amid worldwide disruption caused by Covid-19, both shipments incurred severe delays, which prompted recipients to destroy the entire content.

“At the same time, we have lowered the temperature in the container,” said lawyer Duijssens. “The sea transport of flowers will  be re-evaluated when worldwide shipping is back in balance. We cannot work with the current delays. We are still experimenting. The number of flowers we have to throw away is still too high.”

The auction still sees opportunities in improving the cold chain between nursery and container. Floration Europe argues that no large-scale trade in flowers is necessary for patent infringement and demands a future ban.

According to lawyer Mr Bisschop, Royal FloraHolland does not take Floration Europe’s  CEO, founder and owner, Susanna Blanche Jones, seriously and sees her  ‘a strange kind of housewife’. In reality, Blanche Jones is a professional flower exporter and has tried to come to terms with the auction. Royal FloraHolland has talked  with Blanche Jones about her technology but then ceased the conversation.

Floration Europe is said to be unique in that it is able to find the right balance between dehydration and fungus (botrytis) on the roses during container transport. The preservation technology is the patent.

Royal FloraHolland denies any infringement of the patent. “Boxes with holes have been used for the transport of roses for forty years,” said lawyer Duijssens. He added, “Roses should not be tranported on water. Nobody wets roses before transporting them. That is just evident.”

At the time of consultation,  Royal FloraHolland discussed the proposed technique with Blanche Jones but touted her concept as ‘a complete failure’. The auction advised her to take her plan back to the drawing table and no communication happened afterwards.

When Ms Blanche Jones took the floor, she began with: “I don’t want to appear any bigger than I am, but I have transported many containers of cut flowers since 2002. Despite the ridicule, I am pleased that my method is applied. I have put an enormous amount of money and time into this project and now expect a fair assessment. I want to give access to the patent , not freely, but at the right price.”

The presiding judge will rule judgement in six weeks.

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