Proven Winners Taking Action Against Illegal Propagators

Proven Winners Taking Action Against Illegal Propagators

Occasionally, you’ll read about growers who’ve been caught propagating cuttings illegally. But in many cases, those growers may get away with a slap on the wrist. Proven Winners North America takes a different approach. In the most recent year alone, Proven Winners, through Royalty Administration International (RAI), caught 137 growers illegally propagating its plants. And it is taking even more aggressive steps in the coming year to protect its breeders and the integrity of the industry.

Since 2000, Proven Winners has levied assessments of more than $1 million against illegal propagators. To discourage illegal propagation, Proven Winners recently increased its illegal propagation fine from $1 to $2 per cutting. And RAI, an organization providing patent and royalty enforcement support to Proven Winners North America, flower breeders and other plant marketers, will be increasing the number of grower visits it makes with better territorial management and the hiring of additional field representatives.

Besides paying a fine, growers caught illegally propagating Proven Winners plant varieties must continue to destroy illegally propagated plants in the presence of RAI reps.

“The number of illegal propagators has most likely remained fairly constant over the past few years” says Mark Broxon, executive director of Proven Winners. “However, the number of illegal discoveries has increased because RAI has been adding field reps to better monitor enforcement activities.”

Both Proven Winners’ and RAI’s enforcement activities play a large role in the protection of plant breeders and their rights. Doing this ensures the continued availability of great new plants from breeders to all growers. And this also serves to protect the interests of the majority of growers themselves, who are honest and pay the royalty and marketing fees associated with protected plants.

Most illegal propagators of Proven Winners plants are first-time offenders, Broxon says. Proven Winners has a tiered system of consequences for growers who propagate illegally. If growers pay the penalty and destroy the plant the first time they’re caught, Proven Winners will continue to ship to them. If growers are caught a second time, besides paying the fine and having the illegal plants dumped, they’ll go on an illegal propagator list, and Proven Winners’ propagators automatically stop shipping to them for a minimum of three years. They are also subject to possible legal action.

“In reality, I think you see a lot of people who do learn a lesson,” Broxon says. “But there are no doubt illegal propagators that have not been caught yet.”

RAI cannot visit every greenhouse each year. Sam Rizzi, manager of Royalty Administration International, estimates RAI visits about 2,500 greenhouses per year. Still, that means there’s a chance of growers receiving a visit from an RAI rep, and you would think that chance alone would deter growers from considering the illegal propagation of even a single cutting.

Still, there are growers who continue to circumvent the system despite the consequences. For example, just recently a lawsuit filed about two years ago by Proven Winners against an illegal propagator in Southern Washington was closed out–the fifth illegal propagation lawsuit filed by Proven Winners. In this particular case, the grower admitted to illegal propagation yet refused to pay the fine.

“The interesting thing is this particular grower spent about 10 times more money defending their lawsuit than they could have by paying us the fine we asked for,” Broxon says.

This particular case was, in some sense, an extreme example of illegal propagation, but Proven Winners believes others could follow its example in being more aggressive in their handling of illegal propagators.

“We all need to do the best possible job of protecting the breeder and the honest grower,” Broxon says. “For example, allowing illegal propagators to pay the royalties on illegal material and then allowing them to continue to sell the plants is a bit of a slap on the wrist. And somebody’s going to continue doing it.

“In our case, I think we’re putting teeth into our enforcement program. Two dollars an illegal cutting should be a strong deterrent, and the plant goes into the dumpster if RAI finds it.”

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41 comments on “Proven Winners Taking Action Against Illegal Propagators

  1. I just want to say “Thankyou” for cracking down on illegal propagation. We all may think that the royalties are high but you bring to us great performing plants.I have often wondered how some growers can sell PW plants AT THE PRICE THEY DO, if they are paying even the highest volume price for the product.Thankyou for persuing this matter as it will only hurt the market if you don’t!!!

  2. I know that Proven Winners requires that all of their product be tagged with their proprietary tags as one method of being sure illegal propagation is not occurring. A pet peeve of mine is the number of plug shipments (of Proven Winners) that we receive from Euroamerican in which some of the varieties are not accompanied by tags…when we phone, they say the tags were out of stock andn that they will ship them. it is dreaming to think that we are going to set those plugs in some secluded area for a week or two or three or more… we print our own tags and put the plugs out for sale. If RAI sees these plugs, do they incorrectly assume illegal propagation?

  3. These illegal propagators should be exposed and publicized so people know who not to do business with. In other words, name names. This would be the greatest deterrent in my opinion.

  4. Expose who the growers are that are propagating illegaly by the companies name and the owner of that company and I beleive the practce will STOP !!!!

  5. Absolutely! Name these rogue “propagators”. That is the only way of deterring them. If you don’t name them, they pay their fine on what is on the ground… What about the plants that they have already sold? Seems that might be worth it if the operation is large enough.

  6. What about items that are not patented, but which were purchased from a PW partner, such as Coleus Sedona or Kingswood Torch? I cannot imagine how PW could do anything about that.

  7. It is right to name names, but my pet peeve is the revolying size of the tags. It makes it harder to water,and the plant would sell just as well with a more modest tag.They are too thick as well. There is a limit as to how much plastic and packaging is dumped into landfills every year. We sell in elle pots, and you can;t get a huge tag in there. So we put the bundle of tags in the corner of the tray. We end up with a mess all over the floor, and about one in a hundred customers wants a tag. So we end up throwing out hunderd of pounds of tags every year, which the consumer will do anyway. PW should get with the times, and there are other gorgeous plants out there with a modest tag that sell just as well. I am strongly consudering switching lines altogether if they don’t wise up. Eco- freindly? Not in the least!!

  8. The tags are too big! I look down the bench and all I see are tags. Even with the big tags the printing is too small. I need my reading glasses or a mag glass to read it.

  9. Last time I was visited by the patent police, the person that was doing the inspection wouldn’t have known the difference between a petunia and a geranium. How are they supposed to know the diffence between two very similar cultivars.

  10. Totally agree with the tag comment – they are too big. Also, Proven Winners branded containers are also not sustainable – white containers are made out of 100 percent virgin plastic. PW I think is becoming more about the tag and the pot than the plants.

  11. most plants benifit by taking a pinch its a shame we cant keep the top pinch for our own use. afterall we paid for the cutting. what ever happened about that it was allowed by some growers.i would also like to say a little about pop material. i think we would sell 4 times as many proven winner plants if thay were free… were selling your plants help us advertise for you. rick l.

  12. what about the cases where p-w makes a boo=boo you never see them go to press with that.recently they publicly used one of our common law owned trademarks for some of their p.o.p material ,which now we have registered.the sitiuation was swept under the rug in my opinion.we could make a huge deal out of it ,but chose to remain proffesional about the situation.i will say they are going to comply but definately not in the manner nor the time frame we would have been expected them to do.yes we have grown p-w since scaevola new wonder was the newborn ,but for spring 2009 we have made a business decision(not emotional) to drastically cut our numbers it is getting way too expensive to grow them including cost of p-w containers. we retail and wholesale and its getting hard to compete with some box stores advertising them in spring 08 for 2.79 for 4.5″ pot no the quality was not there but in the public eye its hard sometimes to explain why we cant retail them for 2.79. finally i believe its the independents who played a huge part in putting p-w where they are,as far as illegal propping i couldnt agree more not only for p-w but for any plant or breeder material that says prop prohibited.its also a plus when you dont have to live looking over your shoulder!!!!!!

  13. Only 137 Proven Winner illegal propagators caught this year!! Wow, those numbers seem very low. Good year for the “green” team. Way to go gang!

    Perhaps RAI will follow the same path as it’s struggling big brother, who was just swallowed up by Syngenta.

    Regards,
    Mr. Magoo

  14. Long time grower/retailer of PW…since the beginning! Too bad all PW’s aren’t as good as Blue Wonder or Diamond Frost. Many recent ones are only fair at best! TAGS TOO BIG< CAN”T HAND WATER WITH THE LARGE PLASTIC< NON_RECYCLABLE TAGS> We sell plants, not tags. Most customers DON’T ask for PW/PS. A Bacopa is a Bacopa, except Caitlain’s Giant which you don’t have. Come into the 21st Century … help the independents … You’ve screwed us by going to Home Depot! Also would you please have Royalty police have some personal identification! Since 9/11 I don’t want unidentified strangers roaming MY greenhouses any more that Pleasantview or 4 Star want us in theirs’.

  15. Was a full-time, high-selling Nursery Professional for over 15 years… tried to get the owner to understand the illegality of 30% of total production -including PW, KO Roses, Endless Summer, Encore. Now am a struggling, unemployed Certified Nurseryman & Landscape Designer watching my former boss get rich illegally (labor, also). Have reported these activities numerous times w/no response. It is ridiculous that I have spent my life respecting the product (ornamental/edible plants) & the customer, just to see others in this bus. get rich by lying, cheating, & stealing. More prosecutions desired — & NAME NAMES!!!!! Those of us who truly love the life of a plantsman deserve to have ethical suppliers, employers, & competitors.

  16. In response to the Dec. 18 comment: Sedona Coleus is patented. I would be very careful about checking which items are patented before propagating any PW items.

  17. Per the comment directly above, Sedona is indeed patented. Proven Winners does provide patent information on its website, on its plant tags, and on the documentation that accompanies every plant shipment.

  18. Greenhouse Grower/RAI/PW,
    Please look into naming names in a future article. I don’t think there is anything legally preventing this from happening. There seems to be plenty of interest from the honest growers.

  19. This is funny. Honest growers wanting to name names of those growers who have gotten into trouble. I wonder what illegal actions you’re doing that you’re not even aware of? Interesting thought. Before you all get all righteous and high and mighty, look at your own operation and make sure that all your T’s are crossed and your I’s dotted.

    You would not want to know of all the growers who have been caught. You never know, your name might be on that list!

    Be careful what you ask for. You could make an innocent mistake and be as honest as the day is long, and find your name on a “list” someday. Again, be careful what you ask for and step down off that pedestal that you’ve placed yourself upon.

    Also, I’m not a grower, just someone with a little common sense and a sliver of foresight.

    Mr. Magoo

  20. I just want to say “Thankyou” for cracking down on illegal propagation. We all may think that the royalties are high but you bring to us great performing plants.I have often wondered how some growers can sell PW plants AT THE PRICE THEY DO, if they are paying even the highest volume price for the product.Thankyou for persuing this matter as it will only hurt the market if you don’t!!!

  21. I know that Proven Winners requires that all of their product be tagged with their proprietary tags as one method of being sure illegal propagation is not occurring. A pet peeve of mine is the number of plug shipments (of Proven Winners) that we receive from Euroamerican in which some of the varieties are not accompanied by tags…when we phone, they say the tags were out of stock andn that they will ship them. it is dreaming to think that we are going to set those plugs in some secluded area for a week or two or three or more… we print our own tags and put the plugs out for sale. If RAI sees these plugs, do they incorrectly assume illegal propagation?

  22. These illegal propagators should be exposed and publicized so people know who not to do business with. In other words, name names. This would be the greatest deterrent in my opinion.

  23. Expose who the growers are that are propagating illegaly by the companies name and the owner of that company and I beleive the practce will STOP !!!!

  24. Absolutely! Name these rogue “propagators”. That is the only way of deterring them. If you don’t name them, they pay their fine on what is on the ground… What about the plants that they have already sold? Seems that might be worth it if the operation is large enough.

  25. What about items that are not patented, but which were purchased from a PW partner, such as Coleus Sedona or Kingswood Torch? I cannot imagine how PW could do anything about that.

  26. It is right to name names, but my pet peeve is the revolying size of the tags. It makes it harder to water,and the plant would sell just as well with a more modest tag.They are too thick as well. There is a limit as to how much plastic and packaging is dumped into landfills every year. We sell in elle pots, and you can;t get a huge tag in there. So we put the bundle of tags in the corner of the tray. We end up with a mess all over the floor, and about one in a hundred customers wants a tag. So we end up throwing out hunderd of pounds of tags every year, which the consumer will do anyway. PW should get with the times, and there are other gorgeous plants out there with a modest tag that sell just as well. I am strongly consudering switching lines altogether if they don’t wise up. Eco- freindly? Not in the least!!

  27. The tags are too big! I look down the bench and all I see are tags. Even with the big tags the printing is too small. I need my reading glasses or a mag glass to read it.

  28. Last time I was visited by the patent police, the person that was doing the inspection wouldn’t have known the difference between a petunia and a geranium. How are they supposed to know the diffence between two very similar cultivars.

  29. Totally agree with the tag comment – they are too big. Also, Proven Winners branded containers are also not sustainable – white containers are made out of 100 percent virgin plastic. PW I think is becoming more about the tag and the pot than the plants.

  30. most plants benifit by taking a pinch its a shame we cant keep the top pinch for our own use. afterall we paid for the cutting. what ever happened about that it was allowed by some growers.i would also like to say a little about pop material. i think we would sell 4 times as many proven winner plants if thay were free… were selling your plants help us advertise for you. rick l.

  31. what about the cases where p-w makes a boo=boo you never see them go to press with that.recently they publicly used one of our common law owned trademarks for some of their p.o.p material ,which now we have registered.the sitiuation was swept under the rug in my opinion.we could make a huge deal out of it ,but chose to remain proffesional about the situation.i will say they are going to comply but definately not in the manner nor the time frame we would have been expected them to do.yes we have grown p-w since scaevola new wonder was the newborn ,but for spring 2009 we have made a business decision(not emotional) to drastically cut our numbers it is getting way too expensive to grow them including cost of p-w containers. we retail and wholesale and its getting hard to compete with some box stores advertising them in spring 08 for 2.79 for 4.5″ pot no the quality was not there but in the public eye its hard sometimes to explain why we cant retail them for 2.79. finally i believe its the independents who played a huge part in putting p-w where they are,as far as illegal propping i couldnt agree more not only for p-w but for any plant or breeder material that says prop prohibited.its also a plus when you dont have to live looking over your shoulder!!!!!!

  32. Only 137 Proven Winner illegal propagators caught this year!! Wow, those numbers seem very low. Good year for the “green” team. Way to go gang!

    Perhaps RAI will follow the same path as it’s struggling big brother, who was just swallowed up by Syngenta.

    Regards,
    Mr. Magoo

  33. Long time grower/retailer of PW…since the beginning! Too bad all PW’s aren’t as good as Blue Wonder or Diamond Frost. Many recent ones are only fair at best! TAGS TOO BIG< CAN”T HAND WATER WITH THE LARGE PLASTIC< NON_RECYCLABLE TAGS> We sell plants, not tags. Most customers DON’T ask for PW/PS. A Bacopa is a Bacopa, except Caitlain’s Giant which you don’t have. Come into the 21st Century … help the independents … You’ve screwed us by going to Home Depot! Also would you please have Royalty police have some personal identification! Since 9/11 I don’t want unidentified strangers roaming MY greenhouses any more that Pleasantview or 4 Star want us in theirs’.

  34. Was a full-time, high-selling Nursery Professional for over 15 years… tried to get the owner to understand the illegality of 30% of total production -including PW, KO Roses, Endless Summer, Encore. Now am a struggling, unemployed Certified Nurseryman & Landscape Designer watching my former boss get rich illegally (labor, also). Have reported these activities numerous times w/no response. It is ridiculous that I have spent my life respecting the product (ornamental/edible plants) & the customer, just to see others in this bus. get rich by lying, cheating, & stealing. More prosecutions desired — & NAME NAMES!!!!! Those of us who truly love the life of a plantsman deserve to have ethical suppliers, employers, & competitors.

  35. In response to the Dec. 18 comment: Sedona Coleus is patented. I would be very careful about checking which items are patented before propagating any PW items.

  36. Per the comment directly above, Sedona is indeed patented. Proven Winners does provide patent information on its website, on its plant tags, and on the documentation that accompanies every plant shipment.

  37. Greenhouse Grower/RAI/PW,
    Please look into naming names in a future article. I don’t think there is anything legally preventing this from happening. There seems to be plenty of interest from the honest growers.

  38. This is funny. Honest growers wanting to name names of those growers who have gotten into trouble. I wonder what illegal actions you’re doing that you’re not even aware of? Interesting thought. Before you all get all righteous and high and mighty, look at your own operation and make sure that all your T’s are crossed and your I’s dotted.

    You would not want to know of all the growers who have been caught. You never know, your name might be on that list!

    Be careful what you ask for. You could make an innocent mistake and be as honest as the day is long, and find your name on a “list” someday. Again, be careful what you ask for and step down off that pedestal that you’ve placed yourself upon.

    Also, I’m not a grower, just someone with a little common sense and a sliver of foresight.

    Mr. Magoo

  39. Why can’t a home gardener buy say 100 plugs of a variety of Proven Winner plants from you in a plug tray? I plant almost 200 petunias in my front yard each year, not to mention the hanging baskets of Superbells with Bicopia an maybe a Verbena plant in each of them on my back patio deck eack year (for my personal use) I would even pay return shipping on the plug tray!

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