Plant Variety Protection (PVP)
Identifying Legal Challenges for Farmers’ Innovation
By Saurav Ghimire
On 9 October 2023, an expert workshop on “Identifying Legal Challenges for Farmers’ Innovation” was organised at the Centre for Private and Economic Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in collaboration with the South Centre and Université Catholique de Louvain. The hybrid event gathered experts to discuss the challenges for farmers’ innovation, particularly those emerging from regulatory regimes. The workshop brainstormed policy and regulatory hindrances to farmers’ involvement in plant breeding, namely, in access to breeding materials, access to the market and reward/protection for the innovation.
The expert workshop was organised as a part of a joint research project, “Farmers as Plant Breeders: Legal Mechanisms to Foster Farmers’ Innovation”, led by Prof. Christine Frison (Université Catholique de Louvain), Prof. Kim Van der Borght (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), and Prof. Carlos Correa (South Centre). The research project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO).
The UPOV accession process: Preventing appropriate PVP laws for new members
By Nirmalya Syam, Shirin Syed, and Viviana Munoz-Tellez
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants adopted in Paris in 1961. UPOV requires its contracting parties to establish an intellectual property system for plant varieties that favors the interests of commercial plant breeders but does not address the needs of farming systems in developing countries or the rights of smallholder farmers.
The accession process for new countries to UPOV as provided in the UPOV Convention is based on an examination of conformity of the plant variety protection (PVP) law of the acceding country with obligations under the UPOV Convention. Only if the UPOV Council gives a positive decision on the basis of such conformity examination, the acceding state can deposit its instrument of accession. This accession process does not allow new members any flexibility to adapt their national PVP law to their own needs and accommodate their traditional agricultural sector and related public policy issues such as the livelihoods of farmers, sustainable agriculture, and implications for food security. Prior UPOV members have greater flexibility than new members in enacting domestic legislation to implement the obligations under the 1991 Act by adopting their own interpretations of the obligations, which cannot be reviewed by the UPOV Council at the time of their accession to the 1991 Act.
The various acts of the convention were essentially negotiated between developed countries. The UPOV accession procedure is unique compared to intellectual property treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as the accession processes in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols, or the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. None of these agreements have an obligatory conformity examination of national legislation before accession. In addition, the UPOV Council’s decisions regarding examination of conformity are not always consistent, and significant discretion is exercised by the UPOV Secretariat in interpreting the provisions of the convention as well as their implementation in national law. The UPOV Council’s guidance document for the preparation of laws in accordance with the 1991 Act also provides an extremely narrow interpretation of the provisions of the convention.
Therefore, developing countries should consider whether, instead of accession to UPOV, it would be better for them to adopt their own sui generis system of PVP which allows them to enact a law in accordance with their needs and circumstances. It would also be important for the UPOV Council to adopt a national deference principle in conformity examinations; limit the examinations to a review of adopted laws, as the convention does not mandate the council or the secretariat to intervene in the process of development of national PVP laws; and not undertake additional examinations after a positive decision is given.
The Right to Seeds in Africa
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas and the Right to Seeds in Africa
Geneva Academy Briefing No. 22
By Karine Peschard, Christophe Golay and Lulbahri Araya
Pursuant to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), the African Union and African states should ensure that their regional & national laws & policies, as well as international bodies to which they are party, lead to effective protection of peasant rights, including their right to seeds.
The Geneva Academy acknowledges the support of the South Centre for the production of this publication.
Harnessing the Multilateral Patent and Plant Variety Protection Regimes to Advance Food Security:
Implications of the EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement
This thesis analyzes the provisions of contemporary intellectual property (IP) and trade agreements to explore whether these provisions advance, or compromise, food security in West Africa. The agreements have been examined for how their provisions integrate IP and food security norms and policies, and the extent to which the IP frameworks are adaptable to the regional conditions that determine food security in the West African context. Critical analysis is made of a regional agreement signed between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the European Union (EU), the 2014 EU-ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), to assess what implications the agreement may have for food security in West Africa. Interdisciplinary research is carried out to identify the characteristics needed to advance food security in the region of West Africa. Also, philosophical and doctrinal analysis of IP laws and legal theories is conducted to identify which legal principles are best suited for advancing food security in the region. Based on the findings, the thesis draws up a model framework for IP protection that is more suitable for enhancing food security in West Africa.
Author: Uchenna Felicia Ugwu is a lawyer and academic researcher with over ten years’ experience extensively investigating the relationship between Intellectual Property (IP) norms and socio-economic development in developing countries. She recently received a PhD in International IP Law and Development from the University of Ottawa.
Farmers, Seeds & the Laws: Importing the Chilling Effect Doctrine
By Saurav Ghimire
As an increasing number of countries are formulating Plant Variety Protection (PVP) laws, a growing number of farmers are affected by plant breeders’ rights. In addition, the seed certification law also affects farmers’ relations with seeds. Discussing the farmers’ interaction with the PVP law and seed certification law in Indonesia, this article establishes that the farmers have internalised the law beyond the scope of the legal text, such that they self-limit breeding, saving, and exchanging of seeds even in legally permissible situations. Based on the chilling effect doctrine, this article argues that the related laws should be relaxed to ensure that they do not over deter farmers from exercising their rights. This article calls for both negative and positive state obligations to address the chilling effect on farmers arising from both state and private actors.
Intellectual Property in the EU–MERCOSUR FTA: A Brief Review of the Negotiating Outcomes of a Long-Awaited Agreement
In collaboration with Juan I. Correa
This paper provides a first glance at the Intellectual Property Chapter of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the European Union (EU). It is not intended to provide an exhaustive analysis of the commitments involved but rather to briefly review the scope of intellectual property in the bi-regional negotiations, which took more than 20 years and ended in June 2019 with an “agreement in principle.” It also aims to put the Chapter into context with the whole commitments covered by the FTA and, finally, to highlight its most relevant aspects.
Estudio Preliminar del Capítulo Sobre Propiedad Intelectual del Acuerdo MERCOSUR – UE
Por Alejandra Aoun, Alejo Barrenechea, Roxana Blasetti, Martín Cortese,Gabriel Gette, Nicolás Hermida, Jorge Kors, Vanesa Lowenstein, Guillermo Vidaurreta
El presente documento realiza un estudio preliminar del capítulo XX relativo a propiedad intelectual del Acuerdo MERCOSUR – UE de libre comercio, MERCOSUR logró en este capítulo que la UE hiciera tabla rasa respecto de los anteriores acuerdos de libre comercio. Se arribó a un resultado equilibrado, que refleja las concesiones de ambas partes.
Non-Violation and Situation Complaints under the TRIPS Agreement: Implications for Developing Countries
By Nirmalya Syam
While the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provided for the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints to the settlement of disputes in the area of intellectual property (IP), when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements were adopted in 1994, a moratorium was put in place until WTO Members could agree on the scope and modalities for the application of such complaints. However, for more than two decades, discussions in the TRIPS Council on the subject have remained inconclusive. The biannual WTO Ministerial Conference has granted extensions of the moratorium with regularity. This paper reviews the debate on the applicability of non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement, including the arguments consistently held by two WTO Members that if the moratorium is not extended by consensus, non-violation and situation complaints would become automatically applicable. This paper argues that a consensus decision by the WTO Ministerial Conference is required to determine the scope and modalities and, hence, the applicability of such complaints under the TRIPS Agreement. Even if the moratorium was not extended, the WTO Ministerial Conference should still adopt a decision calling on the TRIPS Council to continue examination of the scope and modalities of such complaints. It also argues that in the absence of an extension of the moratorium on initiating such complaints—and although they would not be applicable—a situation of uncertainty would be created that may lead to a de facto limitation in the use of flexibilities allowed under the TRIPS Agreement.
Intellectual Property and Plant Protection: Developments and Challenges in Asia
Dr. Kamalesh Adhikari
The creation of legal regimes to protect exclusive intellectual property rights over new plant varieties is not a recent phenomenon. National laws that recognise intellectual property for plant varieties originated decades ago in North America and Europe. The first of these laws took the form of a specialised plant patent regime, which the United States of America introduced in the form of the Plant Patent Act in 1930. A few decades later, laws to protect plant varieties as intellectual property appeared in the form of national plant breeders’ rights regimes in a number of developed countries, initially in Europe and later in other regions. A major motivation for these developed countries to embrace plant breeders’ rights regimes was the advent of the 1961 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the UPOV Convention). Mainly after the mid-1990s, an increasing number of developing and least-developed countries in Asia as well have begun either to draft or implement national legislation to grant intellectual property for plant varieties, albeit in ways that are distinct from how developed countries of North America and Europe have conceptualised their national plant breeders’ rights laws. (more…)