European Plant Patent

How is it even possible!

I know, but that’s true. European fruits and vegetables have come under threat since the European Patent Office decided this spring to allow the patenting of natural plant properties.

But that’s not legal!

You are right! As of now according to part G-chapter II-5.4.1 -when a claim to a process for the production of a plant variety is examined, Art. 64(2) is not to be taken into consideration (see G 1/98). Hence, a process claim for the production of a plant variety (or plant varieties) is not a priori excluded from patentability merely because the resulting product constitutes or may constitute a plant variety.

Why this sudden change in policy?

Well, this isn’t really sudden. The European Parliament, led by the EPP Group, tabled a Resolution back in 2012 in which the European Commission and Member States were urged to give priority to the issue. However, not much came of it.

Is this change really needed?

This change may have negative effects as patenting may lead to blocking further innovation. To support the ever-increasing population, driving innovation in the breeding industry is more important than ever. By developing newer plant varieties, especially those that are resistant to new diseases, pests and the changing climatic conditions, issues such as food security can be addressed.

What will be the pros and cons?

Pros: Beneficial to the large breeders who invest in plant breeding on an average 15% to 25% of their turnover. According them, patenting can be a source of recouping huge investments.

Cons: The biggest problem created by the patenting of plant characteristics is that further innovation is blocked in the breeding sector.

The member of the European parliament stated that this will stagnate the development of new plant varieties. “After all, the holder of a patent has the exclusive right to a certain plant characteristic, so other breeders cannot use that property without permission and financial compensation. This is a serious matter because by doing so, big companies are now pushing small businesses out of the market.”

If a callous set of rules such as these come into force, monopolisation of the breeding industry will become a reality.

Authored by Ashima Sobti.

Contributed by Electronics and Telecom Patent Division of BananaIP in India

For further information on  Electronics and Telecom Patent law in India, write to [email protected]

Sources- 1,2