Intellectual property is crucial for plant breeders as it stimulates ongoing innovation.
Intellectual Property Plant Variety protection offers a suitable legal framework that ensures an adequate return on investment to plant breeders for discovering and developing new varieties.
Innovative plant breeding is a time-consuming and costly endeavour. Protecting the accomplishments of plant breeders is relevant therefore both to the entrepreneurial interests of the breeder as well as to the general public.
For decades European plant breeders have been relying at the International level on the sui generis intellectual property system of plant breeders’ rights (PBR) based on the Convention for the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention), which provides effective IP protection for new plant varieties as such and fits the specific needs and nature of the industry.
The plant breeders’ rights system based on the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention provides for effective protection of plant varieties of all genera and species in order to obtain an appropriate return on investment. At the same time, it also guarantees the continuous flow of improved plant varieties by safeguarding access to genetic variability through the so-called breeder’s exemption. This compulsory exemption – which is a key element of the system – provides that all varieties protected by plant breeders’ rights can be used for further breeding and the resulting variety can be commercialized without any obligation towards the rights holder. This feature has always been counted on by breeders as they further improve on each others’ varieties and boost innovation in plant breeding.
At European Union (EU) level, the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) is responsible for granting Community Plant Variety Rights (CPVRs). This consist of a single protection title that is valid throughout the whole territory of the EU with the same scope and effect. The CPVO has its seat in Angers (France) and is the EU Agency responsible for administering and implementing the CPVR system (both at technical and administrative level). The legislative basis for this regional plant breeders’ rights system is EU Regulation 2100/94, which models on the above cited 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention.
EU breeders have been benefiting from its advantages for 20 years. Since the continuous improvement of the system is of key importance for Euroseeds’ members, Euroseeds has always been closely engaged in working with the CPVO.
Besides plant breeders’ rights, patents also play an increasing and important role in the European seed and plant breeding sector. The legal sources determining the framework for IP protection in Europe for plant-related inventions are in the European Patent Convention and the EU Directive 98/44 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions. According to these laws, plant varieties, as well as essentially biological processes for the production of plants, are expressly excluded from patent protection. Plant varieties may nonetheless fall under the scope of certain patents, as long as they are not claimed individually. With the goal of providing transparency on the patent status of plant varieties commercialized in Europe, Euroseeds has launched the PINTO database.
One of the key aspects of Euroseeds’ IP position is the advocacy to exclude from patentability both essential biological processes, as well as the products derived there from.