Sep. 29, 2023
by Steve Landsman, General Counsel and Laurent Giezendanner Head of Legal Operations & Corporate Security at Syngenta Group
We fully endorse the opinions recently expressed in Agri Marketing: The challenges we face in agricultural productivity and sustainability require innovative companies to continue investing in new technologies. At the same time, the enthusiasm for companies to make such investments is reduced when inadequate intellectual property (IP) laws don't protect such investments or when enforcement of such laws is lax.
Our company and others like it, along with the thousands of small start-ups, creators and investors who devote their lives to giving us the tools to pursue agricultural innovation, must know that their hard work and investment of time, resources and creativity will be protected.
And we would like to add to this important dialogue by noting that these efforts should not stop with IP legislation. Many of the parties who are stealing IP succeed only if they are able to construct a business around the stolen IP - by making, marketing and selling their infringing or counterfeit products.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates counterfeit goods cost the global economy over $500B a year. To view that report click here
Counterfeit seeds and counterfeit crop protection products are a part of that economic loss every year. Estimates say farmers can lose up to 75% of their yield to fake seeds and fake pesticides. To view that report click here.
Attacking the violators in their business and thwarting their product sales will help innovators like Syngenta to continue to support the investments in innovation which are so vital to farmers. Equally important: Attacking sales of counterfeit products reduces the risk to the end-user of encountering unregistered, mislabeled, mis-manufactured or otherwise dangerous products.
The goal, then, is to find the infringer's manufacturing and marketing activities and block them; or to find the counterfeit products and seize them. Much of this illicit business is conducted through electronic portals. Syngenta has developed tools to identify the marketing of counterfeit crop protection products, and we have deployed these tools to websites around the world.
Using these tools and other investigative resources, Syngenta has been able to trace counterfeits back to infringers in China, India, Ukraine and other parts of the world. This has led to seizing products and in some instances shutting down elaborate, illicit manufacturing and distribution organizations.
Just this past weekend [Sept 23], for example, efforts by Syngenta investigators, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Secret Service, resulted in the seizure of more than 116,000 kilograms (more than 255,000 pounds) of counterfeit Syngenta seeds -- along with equipment and materials for imitating Syngenta logos and branding.
In other efforts, and with the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Syngenta was able to secure an order stopping the sale of dangerous counterfeit products produced in China and sold over Amazon. In all, over the last 5 years, Syngenta has been able to seize 22,000 tons in counterfeit seeds and more than 33,000 tons in counterfeit crop protection products. What's more, when we find counterfeit Syngenta seeds, we also find counterfeit seeds of our competitors.
We, like others, have invested fully in efforts to enforcing our IP rights in all parts of the world. But we do not want to stop at that. The agricultural industry must try to sniff out infringers or their infringing products and cut them off from the gains that encourage their crimes in the first place. Members of our industry should work collaboratively and collectively on an anti-infringement campaign that would amplify the impact and increase the numbers of customers saved from purchasing a counterfeit, potentially dangerous, product.
Syngenta has begun work with others in the industry to attack illicit trade. We hope to expand these efforts and look forward to reaching out for the assistance of others across the industry. Working together, we can protect American farmers from unsafe and unregulated products and invest in the innovation that help them be more productive and have a positive impact on the environment.