India is a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) with 5080 varieties
With climate change and evolving industrial dynamics food security and bio-diversity has become a growing concern worldwide. Agriculture and sustainable plant variety are today a hot bed topic for the industry of food rights and security. India is an agriculture country that is en route to substantial development in the coming decade. Let us take a look how the coming era of plant variety breeding and granting IPR protection to crop management practices in agriculture industry will change the sector for the better.
Plant variety IP protection rights in India:
Presently India is a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) with 5080 varieties of cereals, vegetative and forest crops and medicinal plants that are certified by exclusive intellectual rights protection.
“India is in a strong position to enable innovation in new agricultural techniques, seeds germination, and botanical practices for Agro-biodiversity management”
The country also has its own legislative framework called, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights (PPVFR) Act, 2001 (‘Act’), recognized by WTO’s agreement , the TRIPS. The PPVFR Act provides legal protection to plant variety breeders and has an established system to grant certificates of exclusive rights to the farmers, farming agents and licensees for the unique produce that can be traded in domestic market and exported internationally.
As per the PPVFR Act you can register your new plant varieties under the following categories:
- New varieties- Variety that conforms to the criteria of novelty, distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability (DUS)
- Extant variety- Plant variety available in India notified under section 5 of the Seeds Act, 1966
- Farmers’ variety- Plant variety cultivated and evolved by the farmers.
- Essentially derived variety- Plant variety derived from an initial variety.
“..even though the breeder has control of the commercial marketplace they cannot threaten the farmer’s ability to practice..”
DUS Eligibility for New Plant Variety Protection:
To qualify for new variety rights, the crop or produce must undergo official DUS tests to determine whether it is distinct, uniform, and stable (DUS) . The test period is of 2 years and must be conducted by registered DUS test centres. The test results should meet the following criteria’s:
- Distinctness- Variety must be clearly distinguishable from any other existing variety by one or more characteristics.
- Uniformity- Characteristics of the Individual crops of a particular variety must have sufficiently uniform characteristics to be considered under 1 family.
- Stability – A stable plant variety is one that remains unchanged after repeated reproduction.
Benefits of DUS framework:
- Sales : Under Article 39(iv) farmers are free to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell their farm produce including seeds of a protected variety .
- Right to market: Sales of seed that is branded with the Breeders name is barred in India. Therefore , even though the breeder has control of the commercial marketplace they cannot threaten the farmer’s ability to practice his livelihood.
- Duration: Trees and vines – 18 years from the date of registration of the variety. Extant varieties – 15 years from the date of notification of that variety by the Central Government under Seed Act,1966. Other crops – 15 years from the date of registration of the variety.
Who can apply:
- Any person claiming to be the breeder or breeder’s assignee of a plant variety.
- Any farmer or group of farmers or community of farmers that are producing the crop or plant variety on their lands.
- Any university or publicly funded agricultural institution that is breeding new sustainable plant variety for the marketplace.
Future: of Grant of Plant Variety Rights:
Today with a changing face of agriculture and famers rights the protection of plant varieties by means of intellectual property rights has become a subject of increased importance. With changing face of agro-biodiversity, multiple stakeholders, and cross-industrial actors the industry has to address the nature of food insecurity and importance of geographically important bio-diversity.
Therefore, IP in plant varieties in India has avoided the method of plan patenting unlike the US. The country has instead chosen to opt for sui generis option that is free to devise their own legal framework. Under the free-to-device framework, India is in a strong position to enable innovation in new agricultural techniques, seeds germination, and botanical practices for Agro-biodiversity management. Along with empowering farmers to have rights over their traditional knowledge thus, a full control over their knowledge as intellectual property rights.
Additionally, plant variety registration is based on community benefit sharing principle that defends famers of communities’ interests against fraudulent appropriation and to allow them to benefit from their own traditional agricultural practices in a legal and commercial sense.
If you are a farmer, agriculturalist or an Agri-industry institution that has an innovative plant variety that you feel must be recognized for better industrial practices then get it registered as soon as possible.