Seed World

Do You Sell Seed? Know Your IP Obligations and Take our Interactive Quiz

If you sell seed, the acronym IP should be part of your vocabulary, says Anthony Parker, commissioner for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Plant Breeders Rights Office.

Intellectual property (IP) protection refers to the legal rights granted to creators or innovators for their intellectual creations such as literary works, artistic works, design, symbols, and inventions. In the world of music and literature, it is known as copyright. Inventions such as the iPhone or vaccines are protected by patents, while trademarks protect the symbols a company uses for its branding.

In the case of plant breeding, PBR is a specific form of IP protection for plant varieties. This protection helps to encourage innovators to bring their creations to the marketplace.

“We know that society as a whole benefits through progress in research and development. When those innovations like new varieties are commercialized by innovators, farmers benefit,” says Parker. “Higher yield, higher productivity — consumers benefit from that.”

IP protection aims to provide innovators with a monopoly over their creation or invention — even in plant breeding. The purpose of this monopoly is to prevent other individuals or entities from claiming ownership, appropriating, or using the creation or invention without fair compensation. In exchange for this monopoly, the government grants the innovator IP protection for a limited time.

Why? Because plant breeding — which leads to the creation of new seed varieties — is painstaking and expensive.

“The fixed costs, such as upfront development costs, are high, while the reproduction costs are low since plants make copies of themselves. However, the economic benefits of the innovation can be appropriated by others, who do not provide fair compensation to the innovator,” Parker says.

Plant breeders’ rights aim to protect the innovator’s work and innovation by providing them with a licensing fee or royalty, which helps them recover the costs associated with the creation.

Plant breeders’ rights provide innovators with provisional protection from the moment they file for protection. This means that during the examination period between filing an application and the pending granting of rights, the applicant or the breeder benefits from all the rights they have once their application is approved.

It’s something that’s of crucial importance to seed companies like SeCan, Canada’s largest supplier of certified seed.

“When it comes to the importance of awareness and enforcement, I’m reminded that it is truly a shared responsibility. Whether you’re a retailer, a plant breeder, or a farmer, it’s crucial to share information about best practices and regulations with customers and fellow industry members. By doing so, we can all increase our awareness and understanding of the laws and guidelines that govern our work,” he says.

Melanie Reekie, manager of intellectual property services for Seeds Canada, says that while enforcement is necessary in some cases, it’s preferable to have a community that is well-informed and committed to following the rules.

“That’s why I believe that we all have a responsibility to share information and work together to ensure that our industry operates safely and responsibly. In the end, it benefits everyone involved, from the businesses and individuals to the wider community and business environment,” she adds.

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