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Away from Patents, Indian PPVFR Act protects Breeders and Farmers Rights

India as a sovereign nation has chosen the Sui generis option for protection of Plant varieties in line with its obligation to meet the article 27.3(b) of TRIPS (Trade related intellectual property rights) agreement of WTO (World Trade organization). Balancing the national interest with international trade obligations, India has adopted a unique framework of a special kind, outside the known IPR framework (eg: patents), in the form of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights act, 2001 or PPVFRA act.

The preamble to the PPVFR act, 2001 clearly defines the reasons for its existence viz., protection of breeders and farmers rights, accelerated agricultural development and facilitation of growth of seed industry in India. Other countries who developed sui generis systems include Thailand, Malaysia, Countries of African Union, etc.

The PPVFR act, 2001, empowers the Government of India to create a legal and governance framework for protection of plant varieties including transgenic plant varieties and a benefit sharing mechanism to reward plant breeders and farmers. Accordingly the PPVFR authority, an independent institution has been established for this purpose, which registers plant varieties and also fixes benefit or royalty for the breeder and farmers in line with article 26 of the act.

India has consciously chosen to keep plants, varieties and seeds outside of the Patent Act by inserting Section 3(j) in the Indian Patent Act (IPA), 1970 under category of inventions which cannot be patented.

Though both the IPR enactments provide protection to the innovators, there are certain subtle differences between the provisions of these Acts.The differences between the provisions of PPVFR Act and the Patent Act are as follows.

 

PPVFRA IPA
Covers plant varieties and seeds as per the definition Excludes plant varieties and seeds
Registration of a variety provides an exclusive right to the breeder Patent gives a right to exclude others of its usage
The criteria for registration of a new plant variety are Novelty, Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability (NDUS) The criteria of an invention are patentability involve Novelty, Industrial use and Inventive step or Patentability.
Section 30 gives a right to use a registered (protected) variety for developing new varieties which become eligible for registration and thereby exclusive marketing rights.

 

However, the right is subject to an obligation for a benefit sharing with the trait developer under Section 26

No such provisions

 

The provisions of the PPVFRA cannot give monopoly for a GM trait. In countries like USA where transgenic plant varieties are patentable, the trait developer can have a monopoly on the trait and thereby can control all the new varieties developed by other breeders. This is the importance difference between the IPA compared to USA.
The benefit share (trait value) to be determined by the Authority based on the claims made by the trait developer and after hearing the stakeholders like farmers, breeders etc., The trait value can be decided by the trait developer on their own.

Despite above differences, the PPVFR act provides a comprehensive framework by rewarding developers of plant varieties with both IPR protection and also benefits fixed by authority after assessment of claims. All in all, it is a win-win for the farmers and the Indian seed industry.

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