Plant Varieties Act

Applies to the whole UK

Title: Plant Varieties Act

Category: UK Law

Date: 1997

Reference: Chapter 66 [Full text] Click here for a Guide to the Plant Varieties Act

General Description:

Plant breeders rights are a form of intellectual property. They were first established in the UK under Part I of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964. The basis for the 1964 Act was the 1961 International

Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. This established the first international system of plant breeders rights and a Union - UPOV - to oversee it and to provide a forum for discussion and agreement on issues relating to plant variety protection. The UK played a major role in the development of the 1961 Convention and was the first to ratify it following the enactment of the 1964 Act. Some minor changes were made to the 1961 Convention, in the period up to 1978. These were implemented in the Plant Varieties Act 1983 which amended the 1964 Act.

The Plant Varieties Act 1997 implements fundamental revisions to the UPOV Convention adopted on 19 March 1991. It repeals (and re-enacts where appropriate) Part I of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964, as amended and establishes a national system of plant breeders rights based on the 1991 Convention. The Act extends to the United Kingdom, except for section 47 which applies to Great Britain. Section 47 amends Part II of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964 to extend the time limit for bringing summary proceedings for contraventions of seeds regulations from 6 to 12 months.

This Act enables the following:

  1. The establishment of a Plant Varieties Rights Office staffed by a deputy controller and other officers
  2. The criteria under which breeders rights may be granted:-
    • The variety must be distinct by one or more characteristics which enable it to be distinguished from any other variety whose existence is a matter of common knowledge at the time of the application.
    • The variety must be sufficiently uniform in those characteristics which are included in the examination for distinctness.

  • The variety be stable such that those characteristics used for the variety description, remain unchanged after repeated propagation or, in the case of a particular cycle of propagation, at the end of each such cycle.
  • The variety must be novel. The variety is seen as novel if no sale or other disposal of propagating or harvested material of the variety for the purposes of exploiting the variety has, with the consent of the applicant, taken place
  1. in the United Kingdom earlier than one year before the date of the application. OR
  2. elsewhere than in the United Kingdom earlier than 4 years, or, in the case of trees or vines, 6 years, before the date of the application.
  3. The criteria for deciding priorities between applicants for rights. It also establishes arrangements for a tribunal and an appeals arrangement where agreement can not be reached.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Varieties, Genetic Diversity, Saved Seeds

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