Floration Europe is taking Royal FloraHolland to court because they believe the auction infringes on their patented technology for the transport of roses and chrysanthemums by sea. The interim injunction, which will take place in The Hague on the 2nd of March, involves hundreds of millions of euros.
As part of the interim injunction in March, Floration demands that RFH hands over all materials and documents related to their ocean freight transports. CEO Susanna Blanche Jones: “Royal FloraHolland doesn’t just use ocean freight, they facilitate it as well. They’ve published online videos about ocean fright that include certain information about packaging. And they offer ocean freight services as well. That must end.” Floration also demands a letter of amendment from the auction stating they’ve infringed on the patent, and they demand that the auction will cease their ocean freight services.
Blanche Jones, a flower exporter herself, demands a considerable compensation payment from RFH as well. 100,000 euros per day, from the day on which the infringement started, in 2012. In total, that’s several hundreds of millions of euros. “I’ve lost 13 years of income, while I’ve spent lots of money on the patent and on lawyers. I’ve tried to convince RFH of my patent rights for many years. They haven’t responded. They simply copied my technology.”
The dispute between Floration Europe and Royal FloraHolland has been going on for years. Blanche Jones was already shipping tulips to the USA by sea before 2007. She gave a presentation about it at RFH, during which she shared her technology. A few months later, VGB and RFH started a collaboration focused on ocean freight, financially supported by a subsidy from the Product Board. “That’s when I noticed they were planning to use my technology.”
Blanche Jones submitted her idea for an ocean container storage technology for rose and chrysanthemum in the context of a patent application in 2007. She became the holder of the European patent, the subject of the upcoming interim injunction, in 2012. Blanche Jones explains that when RFH and the VGB were exploring ways to transport flowers by sea, VGB tried to take over the patent from her for €25,000. An amount that was far too low in Blanche Jones’ opinion. This dispute between Floration and VGB/FloraHolland was brought to the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich at the time. According to the EPO, Blanche Jones was right.
She subsequently asked a detective agency to help her prove the infringement of RFH. “It’s difficult to get proof, because the transport of flowers by sea cargo takes places in a closed circuit.” The detective agency worked on the case for a year, but they couldn’t find anything. On the 9th of September last year, Blanche Jones managed to stop a container of RFH with the help of a bailiff. According to her, that’s when she got 100% proof of RFH’s infringement on Floration’s ocean freight patent.
RFH: ”Our method differs”
Blanche Jones is aware that RFH is one of several players within the segment of ocean freight for flowers. DFG is another one. Colombian exporters also transport flowers by sea, to the United States. “First RFH, and then the others. We can’t go after one party and condone the rest.”
Michel van Schie, spokesperson for RFH, confirms that the case between Floration Europe and RFH goes a long way back. “We recently did a few trials with ocean freight. Last September, one of our containers was confiscated, and a few samples were removed. We believe that our method for ocean freight differs from what’s described in the patent. We don’t feel we’re infringing on it.”