March 12, 2004
European Court of Justice
victory for farmer
farmer has won the right to withhold information on his farming
practices from a seeds company, following a decision in the
European Court of Justice.
The ECJ on
Thursday ruled that Mr Jäger did not have to tell
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungsgesellschaft whether or not he used
patent-protected plant varieties on his farm in the late 1990s.
unlike everyone else in the EU, do not have to get permission to
use a patented plant from the person who bred or discovered it,
but they usually have to tell that person they are using it.
however decided that in this case
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungsgesellschaft does not have the
authority to ask for this information without evidence that the
plant was being used by Mr Jäger.
The ECJ said
that the company was not the same as an 'organisation of
holders' - the ill-defined entity representing patent holders
which has the right to demand information on protected plants
used by farmers.
It added that the 1995 regulation laying out the
'agricultural exception' for farmers using patented crops does
not explain what an organisation of holders is.
Nº 14/2004 : 11 March 2004
Judgment of the Court of
Justice in Case C-182/01
RELEASE No 14/04
11 March 2004
the Court of Justice in Case C-182/01
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH v Werner Jäger
COMMUNITY PLANT VARIETY RIGHTS
ARE FREE TO CHOOSE THE LEGAL FORM THEY WISH TO
Consequently, a limited liability
company may enforce the rights of holders who are members of
other organisations of holders, where those organisations are
shareholders in the company enforcing the rights concerned
Regulation No 2100/94 establishes a system of Community plant
variety rights. The person who has bred or discovered and
developed a variety is entitled to a Community plant variety
right. The regulation provides for an exception to the general
principle of protection of the holder's rights, known as the
"agricultural exemption". Farmers may use, on their holdings,
harvested material from a protected variety without having to
obtain the holder's authorisation. That exception was adopted on
the basis of the public interest in safeguarding agricultural
regulation lays down the conditions to give effect to that
exception and provides that farmers (apart from "small farmers")
who make use of this option must pay the holder of the plant
variety right limited remuneration. The regulation also deals
with the farmer's information obligation, by virtue of which the
farmer must provide certain information to the holder, and with
the ability of individual holders, several holders collectively
or an organisation of holders to enforce their rights.
Mr Jäger, a
German farmer, refused to provide
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (a German limited
company engaged in trust management in relation to seeds) with
any information about whether he had made use of the
agricultural exemption during the 1997/1998 growing season.
Landgericht Düsseldorf dismissed the action brought by
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungsgesellschaft on the ground that it
was not entitled to bring such an action. The Oberlandesgericht
Düsseldorf, on appeal, asked the Court of Justice whether a
limited company can constitute an "organisation of holders" and
whether a holder of a Community plant variety right may require
information from any farmer, irrespective of whether there is
any evidence to suggest that the agricultural exemption has been
started by pointing out that the term "organisation of holders"
is not defined in the 1995 Regulation. However, it noted that
the regulation leaves the choice of which legal form the
organisation is to take to the holders and that therefore it may
be an association or a limited company.
held that, if the holders are free to choose the legal rules
applicable to their organisation, the same must also be true as
regards the members. Consequently, an organisation of holders
may be made up of both natural persons and other organisations,
which themselves have members who are holders of rights.
However, a holder of a plant variety right who is not a member
of any organisation of holders (i.e. is neither a direct nor an
indirect member) cannot arrange for his interests to be
safeguarded by such an organisation in return for payment.
Court concluded that it follows from its case-law that the two
regulations at issue do not enable the holder, where he has no
evidence that the agricultural exemption may have been used, to
ask a farmer whether he has exercised that right.
1 Council Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 of 27 July 1994 on
Community plant variety rights (OJ 1994 L 227, p.1).
2 Commission Regulation (EC) No 1768/95 implementing rules on
the agricultural exemption provided for in Article 14(3) of
Council Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 (OJ 1995 L 173, p. 14).
3 Judgment of 10 April 2003 in Case C-305/00
Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH  ECR
I-3525 (see also press
release No 32/03:European Court of
Justice: The holder of a community plant variety right can ask a
farmer to provide information if there is some indication that
the farmer has made use of the "agricultural exemption").
Unofficial document, for media use only, which
does not bind the Court of Justice.
Available languages: English, French, German.
The full text of the judgment can be found on the internet (www.curia.eu.int ).
18 March 2004
Presse Bericht des
Auskunftspflicht bei Z-Saatgutkauf - Europäischer
Gerichtshof urteilt zur Auskunft beim Nachbau
Das Urteil des Europäischen Gerichtshofes vom 11. März 2004 zur
Auskunftspflicht über Nachbau begegnet nach Auffassung des
Deutschen Bauernverbandes (DBV) grundlegenden
datenschutzrechtlichen Bedenken. Der Gerichtshof hat damit seine
Entscheidung vom April 2003 bekräftigt, dass Käufer von
Z-Saatgut der Auskunftspflicht unterliegen. Der Kauf von
Z-Saatgut sei ein „Anhaltspunkt“ für möglichen Nachbau.
Landwirte seien bei Vorliegen eines solchen Anhaltpunktes
gegenüber den Sortenschutzinhabern zur Auskunft verpflichtet.
Der DBV wertet die vom Europäischen Gerichtshof zu Grunde
gelegte Auffassung, die Sortenschutzinhaber seien nach dem
EU-Recht berechtigt, von Z-Saatgut-Händlern Auskunft über ihre
Kunden zu erhalten, als einen gefährlichen Eingriff in den
Datenschutz. Die insbesondere aus Wettbewerbsgründen sensiblen
Daten über den Saatguteinkauf seien in hohem Maße
schutzbedürftig. Nach Auffassung des DBV muss diese
wettbewerbsfeindliche Auslegung des EU-Rechts dringend