The Canadian government claims its patent for a cherry cultivar was infringed upon by three Washington farms that have produced the variety without permission under another name.
Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food has filed a lawsuit against the defendants — Van Well Nursery of East Wenatchee, Monson Fruit of Wenatchee and Gordon and Sally Goodwin of Wenatchee — seeking an injunction to stop them from growing, propagating and selling the patented cherry trees.
The lawsuit was filed May 18 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.
The complaint alleges the trees in question are of the Staccato cultivar, developed by breeder David Lane at the Canadian government’s Summerland Research and Development Center in British Columbia, which received a U.S. patent in 2009.
Van Well Nursery obtained the variety for testing and evaluation but was prohibited by the Canadian government from distributing or selling Staccato trees, the complaint said.
Nonetheless, the nursery delivered the Staccato cultivar to Gordon and Sally Goodwin, who grow cherries, along with trees of another cultivar produced under license from the Canadian government, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify whether the Staccato trees were transferred intentionally or unwittingly.
After noticing one of the trees growing differently, Gordon Goodwin obtained a patent in 2012 for a new cultivar he called Glory even though it’s actually the Staccato variety owned by the Canadian government, the lawsuit claims.
Fruit from the cultivar matures a month later than Bing, a staple cherry variety, which “extends the cherry harvest season and gives a distinct financial advantage to growers,” the complaint said.
Goodwin and Van Well provided budwood and trees of the cultivar to Monson Fruit, which has “propagated hundreds of acres” of the trees and continues to sell their cherries, the lawsuit alleges.
Canada’s agriculture ministry alleges that in 2014 its commercialization agent settled a dispute over the variety with Van Well Nursery, which agreed to stop selling Glory trees, the complaint said.
However, the government agency claims the nursery resumed propagating the cultivar to generate trees for sale in 2018 and 2019.
“Despite their knowledge that propagating, making, using, offering for sale, and selling” are unlicensed activities that violate the Canadian government’s patent for Staccato, “Defendant Van Well and Monson refused to refrain from conducting these activities, and misled consumers,” the complaint said.
Gordon Goodwin said he didn’t want to delve into detail as the lawsuit was “a serious deal” and he’d have to seek legal representation.
However, Goodwin said he would not take credit for someone else’s accomplishment and remains convinced the Glory cultivar is distinct from Staccato.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s been proven to be a different cherry,” he said. “If there were any question, I would not be calling it a Glory cherry.”
Pete Van Well, the nursery’s co-owner, said he hadn’t yet been served with the complaint and couldn’t comment on the allegations. Capital Press was unable to reach a representative of Monson Fruit as of press time.
The Canadian government alleges that it’s obtained leaves of Glory trees and confirmed through genetic tests that they’re the same cultivar.
Another study conducted by Washington State University “wrongly asserts” that Glory and Staccato are genetically distinct, since any differences in DNA sequences “are not due to differences between the cultivars themselves but rather due to the method of analysis,” the complaint said.