UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants)
UPOV. 34, Chemin des Colombettes, CH-1211 Geneva 20 (Switzerland)
Phone: (+ 41-22) 338 91 11, fax: (+41 22) 733 03 36
Publication of UPOV N0. 437 (R)
Revised December 12, 2008
WHAT IS THE UPOV?
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, known as UPOV, is an intergovernmental organization headquartering in Geneva. The abbreviation “UPOV” is derived from the French name of the organization – “Union Internationale pour la protection des obtentions vegetales”.
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THE UPOV?
UPOV was established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“UPOV Convention”), which was signed in Paris in 1961. The Convention was enforced in 1968, then revised in Geneva in 1972, 1978, 1991 and the Act. 1991 entered into force on April 24, 1998.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE UPOV CONVENTION?
The purpose of the UPOV Convention is to ensure recognition by members of the Union of the achievements of plant breeders engaged in the cultivation of new plant varieties by providing them with intellectual property rights based on a number of clearly agreed principles. To be protected a new variety must be: (i) different from existing well-known varieties, (ii) sufficiently homogeneous, (iii) stable and (iv) new in terms of commercially availability only after certain dates established by reference to the filing date of the application for the protection.
WHAT ARE THE SELECTIONISTS’ RIGHTS?
Both the 1978 and 1991 Acts establish the minimum scope of protection and provide members with the opportunity to take into account national conditions in their legislation. According to the 1978 Act, the minimum scope of the selectionist’s right requires the prior permission of the owner for production in order to sell, offer and exhibit sale of seed of a protected variety. The 1991 Act contains more detailed provisions governing actions in relation to seed material, in connection with which it is necessary to obtain permission from the owner. In exceptional cases, but only when the owner unable to apply his right concerning the seed material, his permission may be required in connection with any of these actions carried out in relation to plant material of particular variety.
Like all other intellectual property rights, the selectionist’s rights are granted for a limited time, after which the varieties protected by such rights are transferred to the public domain. Based on the public interest and in order to avoid possible abuse, the rights of selectionists are subject to control.
It is also important that the permission of the owner of the selectionist’s right is not required when the variety bred by him is used for research purposes, including the use for breeding of other new varieties.
UPOV’s mission is to promote and encourage the development of effective plant variety protection system in order to invent new plant varieties for the benefit of society.
WHY IS THE PROTECTION OF NEW PLANT VARIETIES IMPORTANT?
New plant varieties are protected in to promote agricultural development, as well as protect the interests of selectionists.
Improved varieties are necessary and very economically advantageous element in the quantitative and qualitative expansion of food manufacturing and the production of renewable energy and raw materials.
New plant varieties selection requires considerable knowledge, labor, material resources, money and time. Obtaining certain exclusive rights to a new variety creates better opportunities to succeed in compensating expenses and receiving additional cash for subsequent investments. The lack of protection of selectionists’ rights makes these goals difficult to achieve, since nothing prevents third parties from propagating seeds or other property of the selectionist by selling these without any recognition of his labor.
WHAT DOES THE MEMBERSHIP IN THE UPOV GIVE?
By becoming a member of UPOV, the state or intergovernmental organization declares its intention to protect the rights of selectionists on the basis of internationally recognized principles and support. It provides national selectionists with legal protection within the territory of other members and encourages foreign selectionists to invest in plant breeding and seed production on their territory. in UPOV membership gives the opportunity to share national experience and use the experience of other members, as well as contribute to the development of world breeding work. To achieve this goal, continuous efforts are needed to develop cooperation at the intergovernmental level, which involves the assistance of a specialized Secretariat.
WHAT ARE THE UPOV ACTIVITIES?
The key UPOV activity is to promote the development of international harmonization and cooperation, mainly between the Member States of the Union, as well as to assist countries in the preparation of legislation in the field of plant variety protection. Successful international trade requires uniform and at least mutually comparable rules.
The mere fact that the UPOV Convention defines the basic concepts for the protection of varieties, which must be included in the national laws of the Member States of the Union, leads to greater mutual compliance of corresponding national laws and contributes to greater uniformity in the practical implementation of protection systems. This uniformity is enhanced, firstly, through the implementation of specific activities within UPOV aimed at developing recommendations, model agreements and forms, and secondly, through the UPOV’s significance as a forum for the exchange of views and experiences. UPOV has developed a detailed set of general principles for plant varieties examination for distinctness, uniformity and stability, and more specific recommendations have been adopted for 230 genera and species. These constantly updated regulatory documents cover more and more number of genera and species. The application of these documents is not limited to the protection of varieties, but also covers other areas, such as national list of varieties and certification of seeds. The closer collaboration between members is in examination of plant varieties is based on arrangements whereby one member conducts a test at the request of others, or one member takes into account test results obtained by others as a basis for deciding whether to grant the selectionist’s right. Through such arrangements, the members can reduce costs associated with practical application of national protection systems, whist the selectionists, at relatively low costs, are able to obtain legal protection in a number of countries. UPOV members and the UPOV Secretariat maintain contact and provide legal, administrative and technical assistance to still more national governments displaying interest in the activities of the Union, as well as in the plant varieties protection. Regular contacts with many intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations are also maintained.
Information on the development of legislation on the protection of varieties around the world is published in the UPOV Plant Variety Protection Bulletin.
HOW IS THE UPOV MANAGED?
The UPOV Council consists of representatives of members of the Union. Each state as a member of the Union has one vote in the Council. In accordance with the 1991 Act, some intergovernmental organizations could probably become a member of the Union. The objectives of the Council are to ensure the interests and promote the development of UPOV, as well as to approve of the program and budget of the Union. Regular sessions of the Council are held once a year; emergency sessions may be convened if necessary. The Council has established a number of committees that meet once or twice a year.
The UPOV Secretariat (aka the “Bureau of the Union”) is managed by the Secretary General. Based on the Cooperation Agreement concluded with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, the Director General of WIPO is the Secretary General of UPOV. Secretary General is assisted by a Deputy Secretary.