CIOPORA publishes position on patents for plant-related inventions

CIOPORA publishes position on patents for plant-related inventions

The association's breeders voted in favor of patents for plant innovations.

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November 28, 2017
Press Release
Industry News International news Varieties

HAMBURG – CIOPORA, the International Association of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Varieties, has approved its official CIOPORA Position on Patents for Plant-Related Inventions. The position paper was drafted over a period of two years by a special CIOPORA working group consisting of breeders, genetic engineers and Patent attorneys and was approved via a majority vote by the members of CIOPORA.

“Patents in the plant world is a very complex and much-debated topic. At CIOPORA, we have applied a fully transparent and democratic process for developing a balanced position on this matter, which takes into consideration the interests of both innovative traditional breeders and biotech inventors, on a worldwide basis,” said Per Klemm, chairman of the CIOPORA Working Group on Patents and shareholder and CEO of Selecta One.

The full text of the paper details CIOPORA’s position on questions related to plant patents including Patentable Subject Matter, The Research and Breeders’ Exemptions, Quality of Patents, and Information About and Access to Patents.

The Key Statements of the CIOPORA Position on Patents for Plant-Related Inventions are as follows:

  • As a matter of principle, plant-related inventions should not be treated so differently that they are essentially deprived of patent protection.
  • Mere discovery in nature of existing plant material with interesting characteristics would not, as such, be patentable.
  • Technical processes containing technical steps, even when combined with biological steps, are patentable, particularly if the technical step constitutes the essence of the invention, provided the processes are new and inventive
  • The so-called “new plant breeding techniques” of inter alia oligonucleotide directed mutagenesis (ODM), zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) technology, transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), CRISPR/Cas systems, cisgenesis, intragenesis and reverse breeding are all processes which contain a technical step that by itself (i.e. without crossing) introduces or modifies a trait in a plant’s genome and are therefore not essentially biological processes.
  • A DNA sequence from a plant that is publicly available, such as in its natural environment, shall not be considered to be novel as such. However, the use of such DNA sequences isolated from their original plant genome for a given novel function can in principle be patentable.
  • Patent protection should be available for novel traits, biological material and plants comprising such traits, provided that the further requirements for patentability are fulfilled. The use of DNA sequences isolated from their original plant genome for a given function can in principle be patentable.
  • CIOPORA is in favor of a breeders’ exemption, both in plant variety rights and patent law, allowing plant breeders to use protected plant material for the purpose of breeding or discovering and developing a new plant variety. However, the subsequent commercialization of a plant comprising the patented invention should require the authorization of the patent holder.
  • It is important for ornamental / fruit breeders to secure quick and efficient access to patented technology under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms. To this end, CIOPORA supports the establishment of a licensing platform and dispute resolution mechanism.

The CIOPORA members discussed the patent position in two Annual General Meetings before the paper was finalized by the Working Group, pre-approved by the CIOPORA Board and finally approved by all CIOPORA members with voting power.

The CIOPORA Position on Patents for Plant-Related Inventions in the most recent in a series of official positions taken by CIOPORA since 2014. Other position papers include Minimum Distance (2014), The Scope of the Right (2014), Breeders’ Exemption (2014), Exhaustion (2014), General PBR Matters (2015), and Essentially Derived Varieties (2016).

To read the full paper, and other CIOPORA positions, visit ciopora.org/ciopora-position-papers