Zespri is preparing to take court action in China to stop the rampant spread of illegally grown SunGold kiwifruit.
But one grower says the spread will almost be impossible to police while another thinks it is a ''storm in a teacup'' considering China is the home of kiwifruit.
The lucrative Gold Three variety (G3) was developed after 10 years of work with Plant and Food Research and credited for saving the industry after Psa wiped out Hort 16A.
Zespri chairman Bruce Cameron informed growers it was monitoring production sources and supply channels to further develop and understand the scale of the issue.
The company was also obtaining evidence for legal proceedings against unauthorised producers.
''While we understand this news will be unwelcome, we are encouraged by strong support within China for IP infringement in the past and ongoing public commitments from the Chinese government to strengthen IP laws and enforcement in China.''
Zespri chief grower and alliances officer David Courtney said the plantings had reached a stage where there were material and commercial players involved.
''That is why we're taking action now. We think the plantings have now spread across several provinces.''
SunGold was a huge part of the kiwifruit industry's success.
''We want to make sure we're protecting those interests.''
The licensing process run for SunGold in New Zealand was different from that used by Zespri Global Supply growers and reflected the different business practices in those markets, Courtney said.
Zespri had already taken a civil case against a New Zealand-based grower for allegedly breaching Zespri's SunGold licence agreement and Plant Variety Rights and was seeking $30 million.
A verdict has not yet been reached in that case.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said the kiwifruit industry had invested heavily into SunGold.
''It is in New Zealand kiwifruit growers' interest that this product is protected. NZKGI supports Zespri's actions with the New Zealand and Chinese governments over misappropriation of the SunGold intellectual property.''
Kiwifruit grower Russell West said in his opinion it would be almost impossible to police the copyright.
''How do you do that? There are so many different varieties of gold kiwifruit with very little differences.''
In Pāpāmoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thode's view, it was a ''storm in a teacup''.
''This is not a long-term problem and personally I think it will vanish pretty quickly. China is the home of kiwifruit and the Chinese are already exceeding us in varieties and have the biggest source.''
An Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand spokesman said Plant Variety Rights provided Zespri with the opportunity to manage and control the commercial propagation of the varieties it owned.
But each country had its own regime and rights were granted and enforced under the laws of that territory.
The majority of these were in accordance with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, he said.
Nationally New Zealand kiwifruit growers were paid $1.8 billion in returns for the season with $1.4b paid to growers in the Bay of Plenty.
Zespri's total operating revenue also exceeded $3b for the first time this year.
Meanwhile, Zespri figures showed prices of gold kiwifruit licences had jumped from a median price of $265,108 in 2018 to $290,000 in 2019. In 2019 there were 546 bidders and 243 were successful.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has been approached for comment.