What are plant breeder’s rights?

Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) are a form of intellectual property rights by which plant breeders can protect their new varieties in the same way an inventor protects a new invention with a patent. The rights are granted pursuant to Canada’s Plant Breeders Rights Act, and related legislation. Other nations have similar legislation.

With the grant of Plant Breeders' Rights for a new plant variety, the owner obtains the exclusive rights to produce for sale, and to sell, reproductive material of the variety. The owner is then able to protect the variety from exploitation by others and can take legal action against individuals or companies that are propagating and selling reproductive material without permission.

The holder of the rights may also take action to prevent another person or business from using the approved denomination (the variety name) of the protected variety when selling propagating material of another variety of the same genus or species.

The holder of PBR’s have the exclusive right to:

  • Sell propagating material of the protected variety in Canada, and produce propagating material in Canada for the purpose of selling;
  • Make repeated use of the protected variety as a step to commercially produce another variety (such as in the production of a hybrid);
  • Make repeated use of the protected variety for use in the production of ornamental plants or cut flowers; and
  • License a third party to do any of the above acts, conditionally or unconditionally.

Any of these acts undertaken by an unauthorized person constitutes an infringement of the holder's rights.

How to qualify for protection under the PBRA

All species of plants are eligible for protection by Plant Breeders' Rights in Canada, excluding algae, fungi and bacteria.

The owner of a variety will be granted a Plant Breeders' Right if it can be demonstrated that the variety is: new; distinct; uniform; and stable.

How to apply for PBR?

An application must be made to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Offices at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“PBRO”).

The PBRO examines the plant to determine whether the candidate variety meets the requirements for distinctness, uniformity and stability.

The PBRO then publishes information concerning the Plant in the Plant Varieties Journal.

After publication in the Plant Varieties Journal, any person who considers that an application should be refused a grant of rights, or who questions the acceptability of a proposed variety denomination (name), may file an objection.

If no valid objections have been received by the end of the 6 month objection period following publication of the variety description, the PBRO may grant rights.

The grant of rights will last for a period of 18 years.

NOTE: Most of this information was obtained from www.inspection.gc.ca, a website operated by the Canadian Food Inspection for the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office.