Tulips or roses with a new color, potato plants that are more frost-resistant, apples with a higher vitamin C content or tomatoes with a longer shelf life. The improvement of plant varieties through breeding programs requires a significant investment in both time and money. As it is relatively easy to propagate plants once they are on the market, it is important to protect new and valuable plant varieties with intellectual property rights to ensure a certain return on these investments.
You can submit an application for Belgian plant breeders' rights, if your plant variety meets a number of conditions, such as novelty, distinctness, uniformity and stability. If you also want protection for your plant variety abroad, a Community Plant Variety Protection offers protection for the entire European Union. You can also contact one of the authorised national offices, if you want to obtain protection either outside the European Union or just in a few European countries.
Breeders' rights grant the breeder a number of exclusive rights to cultivate and trade the new plant variety. No one else may grow or trade the variety for commercial purposes without the authorisation of the breeder. However, there are a number of exceptions that do not require the authorisation of the breeder.
The duration of plant breeders' rights is 30 years for trees, vines and potatoes, and 25 years for other plant species, unless they expire sooner, for example when the breeder fails to pay the maintenance fees.
Evolutions in biotechnology have made it possible to propagate plants through other than "natural" breeding programs. By artificially altering certain genes, it is possible, for example, to make plants more resistant to insecticides, or to increase their average yield. If the conditions are met, such biotechnological inventions also qualify for protection under patent law.
As a holder of plant breeders' rights, how do I enforce my rights? What do I do in the event of an infringement?