In this modern technological era, when everybody is favoring new technologies, innovations and new developments in every field, generation of new varieties of plants with improved yields, which are of higher quality or better resistance to pests are now in demand in agricultural sector of the country. The progress in agricultural productivity in various parts of the country is largely based on improved plant varieties. More so, plant breeding has benefits that extend beyond increasing food production. The breeding and use of new varieties is a key factor in improving rural income and overall economic development. Furthermore, the development of breeding programs for certain endangered species can remove the threat to their survival in nature, as in the case of medicinal plants. This article emphasize on the understanding the Plants Breeders Rights (PBR), Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Breeder issues and challenges along with their protection and overall impact of the technology in the country’s economy.
Before going further, it is important to know about Plant variety protection and who can file PBR?
Plant variety protection is a form of intellectual property right granted to the breeder of a new plant variety. Plant variety protection is also known as Plant Breeder Rights. It is an independent sui generis (new) form of protection, tailored to protect new plant varieties and has certain features in common with other intellectual property rights. If any person who creates or discovers and develops a plant variety, may apply for PBR and once the PBR has been granted to the breeder, it means in practice the title holder is the owner of the variety and anyone else who wants to commercialize that protected variety requires the authorization of the holder of the PBR (i.e. the breeder of the variety)1. The PBR once granted is valid for 25 years. This authorization is normally in the form of a license agreement between the title holder and those who sell the variety. In order to protect a variety, it must be novel, distinct, uniform and stable. And must have a suitable denomination.
Union for the protection of new varieties
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) was established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants ("UPOV Convention"). The UPOV Convention was adopted on December 2, 1961, by a Diplomatic Conference held in Paris. The UPOV Convention came into force on August 10, 1968, having been ratified by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. The UPOV Convention has been revised on November 10, 1972, on October 23, 1978, and on March 19, 1991, in order to reflect technological developments in plant breeding and experience acquired with the application of the UPOV Convention22.
How UPOV helps breeder or Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME)?
UPOV is an essential gateway for any breeder or MSME’s to protect any variety of plaints in the country. UPOV helps in the following ways to the breeder or to the MSME’s in protecting plant variety.
- Lowering "barriers to entry" into the breeding sector
UPOV is the most active union process for any breeder to enter into the breeder sector. This minimizes the risk of infringing one’s product. With the help of UPOV, any breeder can register himself and enjoy the benefit of plant variety system.
- A simple and harmonized application system
It can be easily understood that UPOV makes the PBR system more efficient and forceful. Prior to the UPOV it was very difficult for a breeder to apply for a plant variety registration, but now UPOV’s new policies have made the PBR easy and affordable.
- Harmonized system of variety examination
How an SME gains benefit from PBR
- Return on Investment
PBR benefits SMEs in many ways such as it enables breeding companies to achieve good returns on their investment in various breeding programs. The PBR system which is good enough, provides a legal structure that allows associated breeders to improve their investments and thereby allows them to continue their breeding activity. It was very important for SMEs who can take advantage of their empirical knowledge and create and protect their new plant varieties. Companies or individual breeders can use the protected varieties of other breeders freely and incorporate them into their breeding programs. They can also exploit the resulting new varieties freely which is one of the unique key of PBR under the UPOV Convention as discussed above. This feature reduces barriers for entering into the business and stimulating the development of the local breeding industry.
Licensing is one of the most important aspects of the PBR process. All the SME breeding companies should develop a unique licensing strategy to strengthen their presence in the local market and expand their activity abroad by entering into a partnership with foreign companies and various local breeders. Various universities and research institutions can take part in the PBR process and play a key role in the process. PBR also plays an important role in the establishment of the technology transfer to compete in the market. They may have the knowledge and expertise for research but perhaps neither the infrastructure nor the experience required for successful marketing. In this situation, seed producers and consumers, for example in the milling industry and/or farmers/ growers associations, can assist in the financing of a breeding program and then be in charge of the multiplication and marketing of the resulting varieties. Ownership could be shared in different ways according to the funding by the different parties of the breeding activity. PBR sets up the legal framework, enhancing the relationship between researchers, PBR holders, licensees and users, hence creates a favorable environment for the development and transfer of technology in agricultural sector.
- Facilitating access to foreign markets
The main principle of UPOV convention is to provide the same and equal treatment to all the members of all the Nations of the Union
- Development of SMEs in the plant/seed propagation sector
Earlier it was seen that due to the huge demand of the variety in some part of the region, there is a risk of variety depletion or lack of variety in the market. In order to create the equilibrium, SMEs are now working in the remote areas of the country where getting license from breeder and provide the variety or seed in the market for the proper supply of the material is difficult.
The Plant Breeder Right is an enormous tool which helps SMEs and breeders in registering new plant varieties. This form of IPR is now gaining importance in every part of the country. Government has taken new reforms in establishing PBR in the country. Various Agricultural institutions viz. National Dairy and Research Institute (NDRI), IARI (Indian Agricultural Institute), ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) etc, are now a part of PBR where they help innovators or breeders in understanding PBR, provide knowledge to the breeders; provide financial help and helps in registering new and improved plant varieties. Today many NGOs are working for promoting PBR benefits in remote areas of the country. Now it can be seen that the agricultural sector of the country is growing and new and improved varieties of plants are developed. With the increase in agricultural demand, new varieties of crops are also developed which cater to the countries requirements.