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CIOPORA presents Position Papers on IP to PBR experts of UPOV members

During the latest UPOV meeting week on October 13-17 CIOPORA started promoting the contents of its Position Papers on IP, unanimously adopted by the CIOPORA members during the Annual General Meeting 2014 in the Hague, the Netherlands.

Plant Breeders Rights experts of twelve UPOV members as well as the Vice Secretary General of UPOV Mr. Peter Button attended the external event organized by CIOPORA on October 13 at the premises of the Ecole Hôtelière Genève. During the three hour meeting the attendees were introduced into the main statements of the papers and invited to provide their feedback on the vision of the breeders’ community for the future development within the UPOV.

Putting forward the message about the central role of innovation and its effective protection for the sustainable development of the horticultural industry, the President of CIOPORA, Andrea Mansuino, explained that the main goal of the meeting is to initiate a productive discourse with PBR experts about the current realities of the horticultural sector. Mr. Mansuino commented: “It is not a secret that research often outruns the development of laws and regulations, and, with the accelerating speed of globalization and rapid development of competitive technologies in the past two decades, the gap between the needs of innovators and the legal protection of the results of their work has been growing significantly. As CIOPORA directly or indirectly represents over 250 innovative breeders of ornamentals and fruits worldwide with such breeders holding over 70% of all the Plant Breeders Rights in the world, it is its obligation to address the most pressing needs of these plant breeders with experts and policy makers. This is the sole purpose of the CIOPORA Position Papers on IP – to draw “the blueprint” for an adequate and Zeitgeist-appropriate system of IP protection and to try to navigate towards it together with UPOV and its member states”.

The four papers presented to the PBR experts by CIOPORA´s Secretary General Dr. Edgar Krieger focused on the scope of the right, minimum distance, exhaustion and breeders’ exemption.

As regards the scope of the rights Edgar Krieger explained that the significant growth in horticultural production and trade in the past 20 years requires a broader and more harmonized level of protection. In practice this means that propagating material (e.g. apple tree), harvested material (apple) and processed material (apple juice) of protected varieties should be protected directly and per se. This would facilitate the breeders’ enforcement options against infringers worldwide as well as provide benefits to honest growers and producers of processed material, reinforcing their market position in the globalized market.

The CIOPORA’s position on the distance, which two varieties should have in order to be considered as clearly distinguishable (“Minimum Distance”), aims at the re-instalment of the exclusive character of the breeder’s right, and thus of its economic value, via re-thinking and broadening the concept of “clearly distinguishable”. If varieties very similar to already protected varieties are allowed to enter the market the exclusive right of breeder is weakened or de facto negated. Not having an exclusive right himself the breeder cannot grant exclusivity to his licensees, and no one in the chain earns a sufficient return on his investment, let alone an extra margin. To resolve this undesirable development, which is one reason for the steadily decreasing prices in the horticultural industry, is one of the key goals of the CIOPORA members.

Addressing the issue of exhaustion, CIOPORA members believe that in the PBR system - in analogy with the other IP systems - the right should be considered exhausted only for the plant material which has been brought on the market by the title holder or with his consent, but not for material derived from the marketed one.

In line with the current provisions, the CIOPORA members support a breeders´ exemption that contains the use of commercialized plant material of protected varieties for further breeding. They also believe that the commercialization of each and every variety, which falls under the scope of a protected variety, should require the authorization of the title holder of the protected variety.

The points raised fuelled a lively discussion among the experts, both on theoretical and practical aspects. While the need of protecting innovation was undisputed, one concern was whether the points addressed in the CIOPORA Positions can be accommodated within the framework of the UPOV 1991 Act.

As a conclusion CIOPORA´s President stressed that the processes which have been taking place in the world production and trade with ornamentals and fruits in past 20 years have led to a number of irreversible changes in ways plant material is handled and distributed along the global commercial chain. These changes will have to be addressed by legislators and policy-makers in the future.

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