On April 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) announced that the Plant Variety Protection Office (“PVPO”) would start accepting applications for protecting hemp varieties. The PVPO program provides a form of intellectual property protection to breeders of new varieties; it grants certificates of exclusivity that last 20 years (25 years for trees and vines). Certificate owners have rights to exclude others from marketing and selling their varieties and allows them to manage the use of their varieties by other breeders.

In the U.S. there are 3 types of intellectual property protection that breeders can obtain for new plant varieties:

  • Plant Variety Protection – seed and tubers (USDA)
  • Plant Patents – asexually propagated plants except for edible tubers (Patent & Trademark Office)
  • Utility Patents – in this context for genes and modified organisms (Patent & Trademark Office)

The application requires the following general program requirements:

  1. Completed application.
  2. Payment of fees: A fee of $4,382 must be paid with the application; a certificate fee of $768 must be paid upon issuance of the certificate. These fees are subject to change and are non-refundable.
  3. A variety name that doesn’t conflict with an existing name.
  4. Deposit of 3,000 viable untreated seeds of the variety; additionally for hybrids, 3,000 seeds of each parent needed to reproduce the variety.