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Plant Variety Rights and Brexit - what happens now?

View profile for Christopher Buck
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When we think of Brexit and the potential implications it will have on the UK we often consider the effects upon the economy and immigration, what we tend to think less about is the effect it will have upon our access to plant varieties and the agricultural industry.

EU & Union Jack flagsEU Plant Variety Rights (EU PVRs) were first introduced in 1995 and provide protection for new plant varieties which had previously only been protected by a patchwork of unharmonised national rights. Since the introduction of EU PVRs it has been standard practice for plant breeders to make a single PVR application providing protection throughout the EU, proving much more efficient and less costly than making multiple applications in different Member States. The application allows new varieties to be listed on the “common catalogue” and marketed in all EU Member States.

Once granted and for as long as the right is maintained, PVRs give the holder protection for a period of 25 years (or 30 years in the case of trees, vines and potatoes) in the UK or the EU over certain acts in relation to the protected variety including; production or reproduction, conditioning for the purposes of propagation, offering for sale, selling or other marketing and exporting out of or importing into the UK. The rights not only offer protection for the specific variety for which the application is made but also to any variety that is dependent on the protected variety such as hybrids.

Plant breeding test tubesThe plant breeding industry is entirely dependent on its ability to protect new varieties and generate income through the collection of seed royalties. Approximately 95% of the UK plant varieties (equating to a £35m royalty market) have EU PVRs and there is currently no UK alternative protection in place. From the moment that the UK leaves the EU, none of the varieties protected by EU PVRs will have protection unless the UK Government successfully enacts specific legislation dealing with the transfer of all EU-protected varieties to a UK register with the same level and extent of PVR protection. 

A failure to achieve necessary plant breeding rights in negotiating Brexit is likely to result in the complete withdrawal of the plant breeding industry from the UK market which will not only see closures of research and development facilities, business premises and widespread job losses but will also deny access to the latest genetic advances both in the sale of seed and vegetable produce for UK farmers, growers, retailers and consumers alike.

If you should have any additional queries in relation to intellectual property rights, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01908 660966 or alternatively at