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...Start ...Main practice areas ...Plant variety law
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Plant Variety Law

Protection of plant variety

Plant species are one of the most important production resources in agriculture and horticulture. The great increases in the productivity of German agriculture and horticulture for 50 years would not have been conceivable without the success of plant breeding; this regards the increasing of yields per hectare, the progress in the cultivation of many crops plants, the improving quality, and higher resistance to plant diseases and plant pests.

Plant Varieties: requirements

Plant Variety Law is strictly connected with Patent Law as it protects the intellectual property of plant cultivations. The protection of variety is really important for plant breeding, and other breeding progress in agriculture and horticulture. Every breeder or discoverer of a new variety can apply for a protection of variety to the German Plant Variety Protection Office for protections based on the Plant Variety Protection Act (valid for the entire plant kingdom). A plant variety can be protected thereafter if it is distinguishable, homogenous, consistent, and new and if it is also designated by a registrable variety name.

The protection of variety entitles an owner or his successor to import or create propagation material (plants and plants parts including seeds) of a protected variety for commercial purposes.  The use of a protected variety for the breeding of a new variety does not require the consent of the plant variety owner; although there is a particular protection for protected incest lines for the breeding of hybrids.

Since 1997, varieties derived from a protected variety have been included in the protection as well, which, apart from the differences resulting from the derivation correspond to the essential characteristics of the originating species.

Distinctive, homogenous, constant

The examination of distinctness, homogeneity and resistance shall be carried out on the basis of the characteristics of the variety. For the evaluation and the detailed descriptions of the varieties, are used only the features that are not (or only slightly) affected by environmental factors. These are predominantly morphological and phenological features that show a sufficient variation between varieties of a plant species. There is no need for these features to have a substantial commercial value.
The expression of the characteristics is recorded by cultivation in the open air or greenhouses or by additional investigations in the laboratory. The essential features of each plant species is defined in national and international guidelines.
The duration of a variety protection is 25 years; as far as concerned hops, potatoes, vines and tree species is 30 years.

Federal Office of Plant Varieties (Bundessortenamt) Hannover

In Germany, the Federal Office for Plant Varieties is responsible for the granting of variety protection and variety certification and supports the diverse activities to promote breeding progress and biodiversity. Variety protection law protects the intellectual property of defined crop varieties and thus secures the income of the breeders' work by granting a private protective right. Variety protection may be applied for varieties of every plant, with the exception of micro-organisms.
The introduction on the market, the commercial distribution of seeds and planting material for agricultural plant species, vine and vegetables is subject to authorization. This ensures agriculture, wine and horticulture and, finally, the supply of high-quality seed and planting material to the consumer. In the case of varieties of agricultural species, value-added characteristics such as yield, quality, health and cultivation characteristics are also tested for approval. More information can be found in the "Descriptive lists" (“Beschreibenden Sortenlisten”), which can be viewed online at the Federal Office of Plant variety. They describe all varieties approved in Germany and partly in Europe in their most important characteristics and thus provide important indications, in particular for the seed and consumers and for official consultants, employee, students or privates that deal with the variety of plants.  The official “Amtsblatt des Bundessortenamtes“is a journal of the Federal Office of Plant Variety and can also be viewed online.

The Community Plant Variety Office of the European Community

In Europe, the Community Plant Variety Office is responsible for EU varietal protection. The Community Regulation introduced a system of Community plant variety protection. The purpose of this scheme is to grant industrial protection rights for plant varieties applicable throughout the Community. The CPVO consists of two departments (the Technical Department and the Finance and Administration Department) and the four Service Groups Human Resources, Legal Service, Quality Audit Service and IT Service.
A Board of Appeal has been set up to deal with complaints against certain technical decisions of the Office. This Chamber consists of a president, a deputy and other members; the chairman selects them from a list for each case considered (according to a precisely defined procedure). Members of the Board of Appeal are independent. The decisions of the Board of Appeal are contestable at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.

Apply for Plant Variety Rights:

Step 1: Submit the application

The applicant submits the application for plant variety protection either directly to the CPVO or to one of the national authorities, which then forward it to the CPVO.

Step 2: Verify the application

At the CPVO, they will examine the application for completeness and legality. If there are no grounds for the granting of Community varietal protection, the CPVO organizes the technical examination of the candidate variety.

Step 3: The technical examination

The technical examination is carried out with the aim of distinguishing the candidate species from other varieties, and that it is homogeneous in its characteristics and that it is stable (DUS - Distinct, Uniform, Stable). The duration of the examination is between one year for most ornamental plants and six years for certain species of fruit trees.

Step 4: Variety description

Regardless of the requirements mentioned above, the candidate species must be labelled by a variety name which is also subject to an examination by the CPVO.

Step 5: Granting the title

If the CPVO considers the results of the investigation to be satisfactory and all other conditions are fulfilled, Community protection of variety is granted for a period of max. 25 years or max. 30 years for wine, potatoes and trees.


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