Seed World

Free Access to Patented Innovation for Europe’s Small Vegetable Breeding Companies

Image by © Paul Burns/Corbis

Intellectual property rights play an important role in innovation including developments in plant breeding to make vegetables and crops more resilient, less demanding of resources, and higher yielding. These innovations help to meet sustainability goals, mitigate the impact of climate change, and support food security.

It is already an established practice of Bayer to offer licenses to its patented technologies and traits in vegetables at fair and reasonable royalty terms under its own E-licensing platform.

Earlier this year, recognizing the special situation of small breeding companies in Europe including concerns they may have regarding access to patented innovation, Bayer took the decision to offer free of cost access to our European patents on traits in vegetables which are in the Euroseeds PINTO database and licensable by Bayer.

Companies operating in the EU with less than 10 million Euro annual turnover and less than 50 employees (according to the EU definition of small enterprises) could benefit from this proposal for products developed and commercialized in the EU. Those companies might have less resources to access innovation on a royalty-bearing basis.

Hervé Monconduit, Head of Patents at Bayer in France and a European and French Patent Attorney, explains the intent; “We designed this to be a readily accessible and simplified process that allows small vegetable breeding companies to access patented traits without supplementary financial burden”

A European vegetable small breeding company identifying a trait of interest in a commercial vegetable crop for breeding new varieties for commercialization in an EU member state would first look into the Euroseeds PINTO database to determine if such variety would be covered by a patent on the trait. In this case, the company would then simply go on the Vegetables by Bayer e-licensing webpage to make a request for benefiting from the initiative.

Except in situations where Bayer would not be in a position to grant rights on the patent, for example, due to previous contractual engagements, and subject to the company declaring that it is a European vegetable small breeding company, Bayer would issue a “non-assert agreement” in which it commits not to enforce its patent against the small breeding company for any new variety developed and commercialized in an EU member state that contains the patented trait.

Under the non-assert agreement, Bayer commits to grant this right for free and the small breeding company would only have to keep Bayer informed of its status as a European vegetable small breeding company. Should the small breeding company grow, either by organic or external growth, and no longer qualifies as a European vegetable small breeding company, Bayer commits to maintain the right granted under royalty terms, the rate of which would be fairly adjusted according to the new size of the company.

The reactions of small vegetable companies in Europe hearing about this initiative for the first time during its development has been highly encouraging. Ildem Bozkurt, Head of Vegetable seeds Commercial operations in Europe, Middle East and Asia said, “As we started to talk about this initiative to some small breeding companies in Europe, we received very positive feedback. Supporting food security needs to be inclusive of all players, large and small. ”

Bayer welcomes other owners of intellectual property rights to follow suit with similar initiatives. We also entertain discussions with a range of stakeholders and associations to share the proposal across the industry in the EU.

Bayer’s initiative also marks another step in our ambition to foster transparency (more info here).

We are committed to build up and strengthen trust by making information accessible from a whole range of areas including access to detailed product safety information and regulatory submission documents of our crop science products for instance.

More details on Bayers’ EU small vegetable breeding company initiative are available here. This initiative has been translated in various languages to support access by small vegetable breeding companies in the EU.

With this initiative, Bayer is working to remove the obstacles small vegetable breeding companies may face with regard to patents in Europe.
Transparency at Bayer: