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zespri group ltd v gao and another
overview

This is a decision of the High Court of New Zealand.

The Plaintiff (Zespri Group Ltd) was the registrant for Plant-Breeder Varieties registrations (PVR) in New Zealand, China and other countries for a disease-resistant kiwifruit (the “protected kiwifruit”).

The Defendant began growing and exporting the protected kiwifruit into China without the consent of the Plaintiff.  The Defendant also forged a license agreement between them and the Plaintiff, in order to convince businesses and officials that it was authorised to export the product.

Despite its flagrant actions, the Defendant argued that there was no infringement as critical acts to establish the infringement case were conducted in China.  Therefore, it was argued the New Zealand PVR legislation shouldn’t apply due to the presumption against extraterritoriality, which is a long and well-established common law principle of statutory interpretation.

decision

The extraterritoriality argument was dismissed.  It was held that the New Zealand legislation did apply where there have been actions outside New Zealand borders that nonetheless formed part of a chain of events or actions that adversely impacted the Plaintiff.  In particular, the court noted that this stance aligned with the global context of the New Zealand PVR legislation and rights scheme, and so fits with a purposive statutory interpretation viewpoint of the legislation.

key takeaways

  • The international context of intellectual property rights and legislation may allow courts to take into consideration, actions and events which have occurred beyond New Zealand’s borders.
  • This case has confirmed this is the stance under the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987, which can take into account all acts along a chain of events relevant to infringement, even where some of those actions have occurred outside of New Zealand.