Horticultural Breeders Call For Stronger Protection Of Innovations

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[Corrected version]

The protection of intellectual property for plant innovation was at the heart of a recent conference on patents and modern plant breeders rights in horticultural breeding.

The International Community of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Varieties (CIOPORA) organised a conference on 20 September in Venlo, the Netherlands.

According to a release [pdf] by CIOPORA, “too close minimal distance set by UPOV [the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants] as a precondition of the new variety registration motivate the expansion of the grey zone of innovation where the results of breeding with only minor deviations from the existing ones can be registered as varieties.”

At stake, according to CIOPORA, is the number of similar varieties of plants on the market and the status of breeders’ intellectual property rights, which have an effect on the market price and might hinder horticultural innovations.

The horticultural sector, said CIOPORA, could benefit from a “well-balanced patent system comparable to the one in the USA.” However, CIOPORA said it does not only favours the patent system, but considers patents as a good alternative and as a complementary system of protection to the plant breeders’ rights. The asexually reproduced plants represent most fruits and a large number of ornamental species, such as roses or geraniums. Edgar Krieger, secretary general of CIOPORA, said in an earlier interview with Intellectual Property Watch that asexually reproduced varieties are easily reproduced by using a plant or part of a plant to multiply and duplicate the exact same plant variety with no technical means to restrict duplication.

According to the release, during the conference, Josef Straus, director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for IP, Competition and Tax Law, said there were no economic or legal grounds for a differentiation between innovation in horticulture and other industries, and the IP protection system should be similar for both, “with minor horticulture-specific deviations.”

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