Seed World

Canada’s IP Protection Framework will be World-Class

“Companies that are members of ISF have committed to apply the most effective methods to move clean and healthy seed from one country to the other,” says Jack Metzelaar, Director of Industry Affairs at Limagrain Vegetable Seeds.

I’ve been playing the role of intellectual property specialist for a long time, as you likely know — first as executive director for the Canadian Plant Technology Agency, and now in my new capacity as director of policy for Seeds Canada.

Our focus at Seeds Canada is on encouraging our members and their staff to understand the rights they have and to understand the importance of educating their producers and retailers on why intellectual property protection is vital.

Lorne Hadley
Director of Policy, Seeds Canada

Earlier this year, two of our members — Alliance Seed and SeCan — announced the settlement of a joint Plant Breeders’ Rights case between Alliance Seed, SeCan and one other seed distributor versus a large farming operation in southern Alberta. The settlement relates to unauthorized advertisements and sales of PBR-protected barley and wheat varieties.

The parties agreed to a cash settlement of $737,597 compensation for royalties, legal and investigative costs, and a declaration there will be no additional unauthorized sales. The settlement is the largest on a PBR case to-date.

Of course, a big part of our mandate is identifying those who are not living up to their end of the IP bargain: making sure plant breeders are fairly compensated for their innovations.

The other part of our mandate as Seeds Canada is education. While we need to ensure there are adequate penalties in place for those who violate intellectual property law, those same people (and others who are unaware of the IP framework) must be brought on side so they can understand the need for IP protection.

The primary direct return a producer can give to a breeding program is through buying pedigreed seed or paying a royalty on farm-saved seed. We are doing the latter through the Variety Use Agreement (VUA), which has only begun but will play an important role in the future of our industry. If you think that somebody is a top-notch breeder, you buy pedigreed seed or pay a variety use fee (VUA) and that breeder gets the money to create new innovations.

The VUA currently has 250 producers taking part, and over 110 retailers as well. Eight varieties are now included in the VUA, with two new fall seeded varieties coming soon.

With Seeds Canada, we have a strong new organization with unprecedented reach and resources that we’ll use to talk about intellectual property and get it fully integrated into the regulatory system. Regulatory modernization is important for achieving this. It’s an important time for us to set the framework for what I believe will become an IP system that will be world-class.