The availability, nature and extent of intellectual property protection for plants varies widely throughout the world. In the USA there are three relevant rights: regular utility patents, specialised plant patents and Plant Variety Protection. In Europe many plant-related innovations are patentable, but you cannot patent a plant variety as such or an essentially biological process such as a plant breeding method. Other countries adopt a range of positions, some much more favourable than others.
Plant Variety Rights, also known as Plant Breeders’ Rights in Europe and Plant Variety Protection in the USA, therefore have an important role alongside patents and trade marks in an integrated IP strategy for plant-related innovations. They can in particular be used to obtain IP protection in Europe and other markets where there are legal restrictions on what can be protected by patents.
The main granting authority in Europe is the Community Plant Variety Office which grants unitary, EU-wide rights. In order to obtain a Community Plant Variety Right, your variety must be distinct, stable and uniform. It must also not have been commercialised within the EU more than one year prior to filing your application, or outside the EU more than four years prior to filing (six years for a tree or vine species).
We have specialist expertise in this area. We file applications for protection with the Community and UK Plant Variety Right Offices, and we advise on strategies to secure equivalent protection anywhere in the world. For more information on Plant Variety Rights, or on patents in the Plant Science and Agriculture area, please contact Andrew Bentham.