Plant Breeders' Rights

27 May 2010  Revised 28 Sept 2017 and 13 Jan 2021

S. 1 (1) of The Plant Varieties Act 1997 establishes rights, known as “plant breeders’ rights” (also known as "plant variety rights"), in plant genera and species that qualify for protection under that Act. 


While the UK was a member of the European Union, plant breeders had the choice of plant variety protection in the UK alone or throughout the EU including the UK.  Since 23:00 on the 31 Dec 2020 the Council Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 of 27 July 1994 on Community plant variety rights (“the Community plant variety regulation”)  has ceased to apply to the UK. Art 54 (1) (c) of the Agreement on the withdrawal of theUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland from the EuropeanUnion and the European AtomicEnergy Community provides for the holder of a Community plant variety right granted pursuant to the Community plant variety regulation to become the holder of a plant variety right in the UK for the same plant variety.  That article is implemented in the UK by  The Plant Breeders’ Rights (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Plant Breeders’ Rights
S.6 of the Plant Varieties Act 1997 entitles a holder of such rights to prevent
  • production or reproduction (multiplication),
  • conditioning for the purpose of propagation,
  • offering for sale, selling or other marketing, exporting, importing, stocking for any of the above purposes, or
  • any other act prescribed for the purposes of that provision without his authority.
These rights are granted upon application to the Plant Variety Rights Office.

UPOV- International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants
HM government is party to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants which established UPOV (The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants). The objective of the Union to encourage the development of new plant varieties by conferring plant breeders’ rights as described above.

Applications for Plant Breeders' Rights
Rights under the 1997 Act are summarized in Get plant breeders’ rights to your new variety which may be downloaded from the Plant Varieties Office website.

Proceedings for infringement of plant breeders’ must be brought in the Patents Court or the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.

Examination and Appeals
There are examinations for distinctness, uniformity, stability and novelty in both national and Community plant varieties offices.

An appeal lies from a decision of the Plant Variety Rights Office to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal and from there to the High Court. 

Compulsory Licensing
S.17 of the 1997 Act provides for compulsory licences if a plant breeder’s right’s holder unreasonably refuses to grant a licence or offers a licence only on unreasonable terms.

Further Reading

Jane Lambert
Animal and Plant Health Agency
.gov website
Jane Lambert
Jane Lambert
IP Yorks

Contact   Jane Lambert or call +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during normal office hours

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