The Financial Times Reports that “A National Plant Variety Registry has been set up by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FR) under the Union ministry of agriculture to register crop varieties.” Folks following this debate may be aware of the fact that although this legislation was enacted in 2001, it came into force only in 2005.
It seems routine now for Indian IP legislations to have more than a 3 year gap between the date of enactment and the coming into force of the legislation. The new trademarks act met with the same fate–and rumours abounded that this had something to do with the politics of the IPAB venue–with Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi fighting over where the IPAB should be set up. Chennai finally won. Perhaps the PPV Act in India was also mired in a “venue” controversy… it took more than 15 months (from Feb 2005 to now) to set up the PPV Registry.
The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act 2001 (hereafter PPV Act) is largely based on UPOV’s 1978 and 1991 Acts and is meant to comply with the obligation under Article 27(3)(b) of the TRIPS Agreement to provide for an effective sui generic model of protection. It bears noting that plants are excluded from patent protection under section 3(j) of the Indian Patents Act.
In addition to protecting plant varieties, the PPV Act protects farmer’s rights as well. In this sense, it is a unique legislation that sets a benchmark for developing countries and finds no parallel even in the advanced IP jurisdictions. The current law provides protection to breeders over varieties developed by them, while at the same time entitling farmers to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell their farm produce including protected varieties
After announcing the setting up of the registry, the FE goes on to report:
Around 12 crop species, breeds of which have been developed by Indians have been identified for registration. These include rice, wheat, maize, bajra, sorghum, pigeon pea, chickpea, lentil, mung, black gram, peas and rajma. The ministry will declare the registration open soon.” S Nagarajan, chairman of PPV&FR said. Other species would be added to the registry in a phased manner, he added.
Nagarajan said the species would be identified on parameters, namely distinctiveness-uniformity-stability (DUS), that have been developed by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). DUS centres will be set up in Delhi followed by regional centres to test crop varieties.
Nagarajan said the breeder would gain exclusive commercial rights for a new variety of a crop for 15 years. “ICAR is developing DUS parameters for other species like mango, rose, chrysanthemum and 12 other commercial crops,” he said.
“All the varieties, knowledge of which are already in the public domain or have been developed by institutions and breeders, will now have to be registered in the next three years,” Nagarajan said. These include breeds developed in agri-research institutions and the ones which are already being cultivated like the Alphonso mango growers in Maharashtra. During the course of registration, breeders will have to label their breeds. “This is like having a brand name for the breed, lending it more credibility,” he said.
Interesting way of Breeding Brand Names–don’t you think?