Plant variety protection system is adopted in India under the Act “Protection of Plant Variety and Farmer’s Rights Act, 2001, to meet the obligation under Article 27(3) (b) of the TRIPS Agreement. This Act was enacted to protect the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new plant varieties.

In exercise of the power conferred under sub-section (1) of the Section 3 of the PPV&FR Act, 2001, the Central Government vide gazette notification No. S.O. 1589 (E) dated 11th November, 2005 established the “Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority” for the purpose of implementing of the Act. With the appointment of the Chairperson of the Authority and gazette notification in November 2005, the Authority became functional. The Protection and Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Regulations were notified on 7th December, 2006.

The PPV & FR Registry started the process of receiving PVP applications for registration and protection of eligible varieties of notified genera of crops with effect from 21 May 2007.

Plant variety and its classification:

A “variety” means grouping of plants within a single botanical taxon of the lowest known rank (Except micro-organism), which can be:

  • Defined by the expression of the characteristics resulting from a given genotype of that plant grouping;
  • Distinguished from any other plant grouping by expression of at least one of the said characteristics; and
  • Considered as a unit with regard to its suitability for being propagated which remains unchanged after such propagation, and includes propagating material of such variety, extant variety, transgenic variety, farmers’ variety and essentially derived variety;

Classification of Variety:

  • Typical variety
  • Hybrid variety
  • Transgenic variety

Persons who can apply:

  • Any person claiming to be the breeder of the variety or any successor of the breeder of the variety
  • Any person being the assignee of the breeder of the variety
  • Any farmer or group of farmers or community of farmers claiming to be the breeder of the variety
  • Any person authorized in the prescribed manner by the persons mentioned above
  • Any university or publicly funded agricultural institution claiming to be the breeder of the variety

Plant varieties qualifying for registration:

New Variety:

A new variety shall be deemed to be novel, if, on the date of filing of the application, the propagating or harvested material of such variety has not been sold or otherwise disposed of by or with the consent of its breeder or his successor for the purposes of exploitation of such variety-

  • In India, earlier than one year; or
  • Outside India, in the case of trees or vines earlier than six years, or
  • In any other case, earlier than four years, before the date of filing such application

Extant variety:

  It includes a variety which is:

  • Notified under section 5 of Seeds Act, 1966 or
  • A farmer's variety  or
  • A variety about which there is common knowledge  or
  • Any other variety which is in public domain

Essentially derived variety:

An “essentially derived variety“‚ in respect of a variety (the initial variety) is that:

  • Which is essentially derived from an initial variety
  • Which retains the expression of the essential characteristics of such initial variety
  • Which is clearly distinguishable from the initial variety
  • Which conforms to the initial variety in the expression of essential characteristics of such initial variety, except the variation which results in the process of derivation

Farmers’ variety:

It is a variety which is cultivated and evolved by the farmers or is a wild relative or land race about which the farmers possess the common knowledge.

Criteria for Distinctiveness Uniformity and Stability

A variety shall be considered to be novel if it meets the following criteria:

  • Distinctiveness: If it is clearly distinguishable by at least one essential characteristic from any other variety whose existence is a matter of common knowledge in any country at the time of filing of the application.
  • Uniformity: If subject to the variation that may be expected from the particular features of its propagation, it is sufficiently uniform in its essential characteristics.
  • Stability: If its essential characteristics remain unchanged after repeated propagation or, in the case of a particular cycle of propagation, at the end of each such cycle.

Total species for registration:

There are a total of 21 species at present that could be registered which are broadly divided into three categories:

  • Pulses
  • Coarse Cereals
  • Oil seeds

Other new Species for which approval is awaited

There is another set of 22 species that has been sent for approval which includes the following:

  • 8 Vegetable Crops
  • 1 Fruit – Mango
  • 1 Flower Plant- Rose
  • 10 Oil Seed Crops

Exclusion:

No such variety would be protected and registered:

  • Where prevention of commercial exploitation of that variety is necessary to protect public order or public morality or human, animal and plant life and health or to avoid serious prejudice to the environment.
  • Whose genera or species are notified as non-registerable plant varieties in the Official Gazette notification issued by the Central Government
  • Which are developed by terminator technology
  • Whose species or genera are not listed in the notification issued by the Central Government

Registration:

Any person as described under sec.16 of the Act, can apply for the registration of a new variety either directly or through their agents. The Office of the Registrar, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority is the appropriate office for filing the application in India. The procedure involved in the registration process in India is as follows:

  • The applicant can file a completely filled application with all the necessary statements with the Registrar for registration of any variety of such genera and species as specified under sub-section (2) of Section 29 or which is an extant variety or which is a farmer's variety.
  • The applicant must also make available to the Registrar such quality of seeds of the variety for registration along with the prescribed fee to conduct tests to evaluate whether they conform to the standards as may be specified by regulations.

DUS Test:

The Distinctiveness Uniformity and Stability test guidelines have been finalized for 12 notified crop species which are Black gram, Bread wheat, Chickpea, Field pea, Green gram, Kidney bean, Lentil, Maize, Pearl millet, Pigeon pea, Rice and Sorghum.

  • When an application for registration of a variety (other than an essentially derived variety) has been accepted and not opposed or opposed but the opposition has been rejected, the Registrar will issue a certificate of registration to the applicant.

Term of Registration

The certificate of registration issued by the Registrar is valid for eighteen years from the date of registration of the variety in the case of vine and trees and fifteen years from the date of notification of that variety by the Central Government in the case of extant varieties and for a period of fifteen years from the date of registration of the variety in other cases. However, the certificate of registration is valid for a period of nine years in the case of trees and vines and six years in the case of other crops. The Registrar may review and renew this registration for the remaining term on payment of the prescribed fee.

Farmer’s rights:

A farmer who has bred or developed a new variety shall be eligible to register his variety under the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers' Rights Act, 2001 in the same manner as a breeder of a variety.

In section 39 (iv) of the chapter on Farmers’ Rights, the rights of the farmers are provided which states that

“The farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act.; Provided that the farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under this Act.”

A farmer who is engaged in the conservation of genetic resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants and their improvement through selection and preservation shall be eligible to register his variety for recognition and reward from the ‘Gene Fund’, provided that material so selected and preserved has been used to donate genes of varieties registered under the Act.

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