Big increase in UK Plant Breeder’s Rights fees – does it matter?

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is currently conducting a consultation on increasing the fees for UK Plant Breeder’s Rights. You can find the consultation by clicking here.

Under the proposed new tariff, the application fee will increase by about one third and the DUS examination fee will increase by more than 130%. That’s a rather large price increase. DEFRA is currently losing money on (i.e. subsidising from general taxation) every PBR application that is submitted by breeders and intends that the new fee structure will result in a reduction in that loss/subsidy to nil. This is known in the jargon as “full cost recovery”.

The new fees will be so expensive that, in the case of a perennial garden ornamental, for example, the cost of the UK PBR (covering just one nation) would be equal to the cost of application, DUS examination and the first three years of annual fees for EU PVR (covering the UK and 27 other member states of the EU). We should not be surprised by this – the process of dealing with an application for Plant Variety Rights involves a similar process whether that is for UK PBR or EU PVR, with similar costs. If anything, the EU perhaps has some advantages of economy of scale, as it handles many more applications per annum than the British authorities do.

Therefore, the obvious business decision would be to not bother with UK rights, but simply apply for EU rights instead. And that is what most people do already, certainly in the world of ornamental plants – in the last twelve months, only one application for UK rights in an ornamental has been submitted (for a rose).

So, does this increase matter? Well, hopefully not. All the while the UK remains part of the European Union, breeders wishing to exploit their variety in the UK are afforded an effective, legally-enforceable protection by means of the EU PVR system. However, should the Europhobes get their way and force the UK’s exit from the EU, then breeders would find their protection costs will double – the fee for EU PVR will remain, but they would also have to pay a similar sum for UK rights (as it is reasonable to foresee that EU rights would no longer cover the UK if the UK were to leave the EU).

Let’s hope that never happens, eh? And use your vote wisely!


Aside: UK legislation refers to Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR). European regulation refers to Plant Variety Rights (PVR) and that is the term we generally use here at Plants for Europe. PBR and PVR are essentially the same thing – an intellectual property right to protect innovations created by plant breeders. We prefer the term PVR because the right may not necessarily be owned by the breeder. Just like patent or any other intellectual property right, PVRs may be bought and sold and their ownership transferred. We look after several plants where the owner of the rights is not the original creator, for various reasons. The right relates to a plant variety, so we feel PVR is a more accurate term.