Plant Variety Protection


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?

Shamnad Basheer

Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer founded SpicyIP in 2005. He's also the Founder of IDIA, a project to train underprivileged students for admissions to the leading law schools. He served for two years as an expert on the IP global advisory council (GAC) of the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2015, he received the Infosys Prize in Humanities in 2015 for his work on legal education and on democratising the discourse around intellectual property law and policy. The jury was headed by Nobel laureate, Prof. Amartya Sen. Professional History: After graduating from the NLS, Bangalore Prof. Basheer joined Anand and Anand, one of India’s leading IP firms. He went on to head their telecommunication and technology practice and was rated by the IFLR as a leading technology lawyer. He left for the University of Oxford to pursue post-graduate studies, completing the BCL, MPhil and DPhil as a Wellcome Trust scholar. His first academic appointment was at the George Washington University Law School, where he served as the Frank H Marks Visiting Associate Professor of IP Law. He then relocated to India in 2008 to take up the MHRD Chaired Professorship in IP Law at WB NUJS, a leading Indian law school. Later, he was the Honorary Research Chair of IP Law at Nirma University and also a visiting professor of law at the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore. Prof. Basheer has published widely and his articles have won awards, including those instituted by ATRIP, the Stanford Technology Law Review and CREATe. He was consulted widely by the government, industry, international organisations and civil society on a variety of IP issues. He also served on several government committees.


  1. Jeremy Cherfas

    Do you know whether the Indian government plans to take any steps to prevent registered seeds ousting older and more traditional varieties? Will the UPOV style system be the only option for the sale of seeds of those species?

  2. shamnad Basheer

    Good question. I don’t think the government has any plans in this regard–on the contrary, the govt is interested in drumming up more registration numbers (to match up to China’s PV regt numbers–I got this from a govt person).


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