The Fleuroselect organisation has recently held a conference to discuss the relative merits and conflicts between utility patents for plant technologies and “traditional” plant variety rights. You can read the press release here.
This is a complicated issue and is likely to impact on “smaller” breeders more and more in the coming years. In general, it is likely to make protection costs greater for “big genera” (food and cut flower crops) and force independent breeders into more niche products. It may also make it harder to develop a profit from plant breeding in some of the important genera. On the other hand, such high costs mean that utility patents may not have applications in the smaller volume genera that are popular in the garden plant market and so may be less of barrier to breeders of these plants than to those working with major crops. The biggest problem might arise where there are “crossover” crops – for example, cut flower crops such as Solidago, Hypericum, Rosa that are also used as garden plants.
In any case, this is a topic that PFE will be monitoring in the coming months and years. At present, we feel that the breeders’ exemption coupled with effective essentially derived variety regulation offers the best compromise between protecting the interests of variety owners and those who wish to innovate and develop new varieties.
EDIT: today, the Chancellor has announced a reduced rate of Corporation Tax of 10% for profits derived from patents, effective 2013. It is not yet clear how this will work, but there is no mention of it applying to Plant Variety Rights. Two things come out of this – it is likely that small breeders will do well to become Limited Companies to make the most of this change if they derive income from patents. But those that use only the PVR system are likely to be further disadvantaged.
PFE is attempting to coordinate lobbying of the government to get Plant Variety Rights included in the so called Patent Box legislation bringing in the new reduced rate of tax. Since plant varieties are excluded from the patent system, to exclude PVR would be discriminatory. If you wish to support us or can help in any way, please contact us.