Innovative plant breeding is a time-consuming and costly endeavor whereby plant breeders are investing a considerable percentage of their turnover into the development of new varieties. Private and public plant breeders thus have to find a way to refinance these expenses. Both the entrepreneurial interests of the breeder, as well as the general public interest, ask for a suitable framework that ensures adequate return on investment to the plant breeder for his accomplishment. Intellectual property (IP) rights are the means to establish such a framework.
For decades European plant breeders have been relying on the sui generis intellectual property system of plant breeders’ rights (PBR) based on the 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 return on investment and, at the same time, it 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 cornerstone 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 right holder. This feature has always been relied upon by breeders for further improvement on each other’s’ varieties and boosted innovation in plant breeding.
Besides plant breeders’ rights also patents play an increasing and important role in the European seed and plant breeding sector.