We previously reported that the European Patent Office had confirmed that European patent protection is available for more plant-related inventions than previously realised.

This has caused concern about the restricted rights afforded to plant breeders under European patent law, and is inconsistent with moves made in some EU states to exclude plants produced by biological processes from patent protection. This has triggered calls for changes to the legislation and the EU Commission has now issued a note on this issue which may lead to more confusion and uncertainty in this field in Europe.

Plant variety rights (PVR)

These rights are available for new plants that have been developed by crossing, breeding and selection of plants, which is a slow and expensive process, sometimes taking many years to produce a plant with the desired characteristics. In order to qualify for PVR protection, a plant variety must be distinct (have a different combination of traits from all other known varieties), uniform (all plants have the same properties when grown under the same conditions) and stable (plants can be grown over a number of generations without change in traits). Changing a single trait (colour, leaf shape, growth habit, etc.) will result in a new plant variety.

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