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Strong and effective Intellectual Property protection drives plant breeding

Plant Breeders’ Rights

Plant breeding involves a major investment in people, technology and facilities. Research and development takes place over many years with no guarantee of success.

Developing an individual variety is expensive. The breeder’s only return to fund the ongoing process of crop improvement is a royalty on seed used. Only varieties which succeed in the market place are rewarded.

Plant breeding is funded through Plant Breeders’ Rights, a unique, internationally recognised form of intellectual property applied to each new plant variety.

It provides the breeder with a time-limited monopoly over the production and sale of propagating material of his protected variety but leaves the source, the genetic material, open for use by others.

To be granted Plant Breeders’ Rights a variety must be Distinct, Uniform, Stable (DUS). It must also be novel and have an approved name.

The granting of Plant Breeders’ Rights delivers protection and return for individual breeders’ past efforts. It also stimulates continued research and improvement by ensuring that all protected varieties are freely available for use in future breeding programmes. Known as the ‘breeder’s exemption’ this process has underpinned the major advances seen in crop development over the past 40 years.

The International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants was adopted in Paris in 1961 and revised in 1972, 1978 and 1991. The objective of the Convention is the protection of new varieties of plants by an intellectual property right. By codifying intellectual property for plant breeders, UPOV aims to encourage the development of new varieties of plants for the benefit of society.

ISF’s Position

Both Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) – also referred to as Plant Variety Protection (PVP) and Plant Variety Rights (PVR) – and patents are needed to stimulate the full scope of innovation in agricultural sciences. The most effective IP system balances protection as an incentive for innovation and access, enabling others to further improve plant varieties. Therefore, ISF considers that the preferred form of protection for varieties per se is through Plant Breeders Rights.

PBR include the breeder’s exception, the objective of which is to allow access to and use for further breeding of commercial varieties that are protected under PBR. The breeder’s exception is one of the cornerstones of the PBR system. When patents are used in the field of plant breeding, a balance can be achieved through attention to the definition of patentable subject matter, the scope and quality of patent claims, the duration of patent protection, and exceptions to the patent right for research and breeding.

For more information see the ISF position paper: ISF View on Intellectual Property (2012).