In the field of intellectual property, it is common to think in trademarks, patents and computer programs as its great representatives. Although that is true, there is a specific area that are both agribusiness and IP subject we are required to understand: the cultivated variety, or just “cultivar”.
Brazilian IP Law bars the protection of natural living beings, in whole or in part, and biological material, when found in nature or isolated, from patent system. Such provision was an option for each signatory of both Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) and International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (the UPOV Convention from 1978). In this regard, plant variety such as sugarcane, cotton, banana, orange and corn, whose harvests were particularly responsible for increase in 3,81% the Brazilian agrobusiness GDP in 2019, have a sui generis protection system.
The Brazilian Plant Variety Protection Law (Law No. 9,456/1997) regards several criteria in order to distinguish the cultivar use and reproduce from another kind of plant. To do so, the article 10 presents actions that are not deemed to be breeder’s right infringement. For instance, a person who stores and plants seeds for his/her own use on his/her premises or on the premises of third parties shall not be considered a PVP infringer. Using the plant as a source of variation in genetic improvement or in scientific research is another exception.
A special treatment is given to small rural producers (familiar agriculture), who are allowed to multiply seeds for donation or exchange in dealings exclusively with other small rural producers, under programs of financing or support authorised by the Government.
But such general provisions do not apply to the cultivation of sugarcane. A specific list of provisions regulates cultivar. The producer who wants to multiply vegetative propagating material, for example, is obliged to secure authorisation from the owner of the right to the plant variety, even for his/her own use. It does not apply just in case the rural property the producer has possession or ownership has less than four modules, according to Law No. 4,504/1964.
To regulate and manage applications for protection, Brazilian PVP Law established the National Plant Varieties Protection Service (SNPC), under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA). All responsibilities of this agency are listed at article 3 of Decree No. 2,366/1997, that implements regulations of the Plant Variety Protection Law.
Under article 9 of UPOV Convention, Brazilian PVP Law provides restrictions in the exercise of breeder’s right in two main cases: compulsory license and restricted public use.
The first restriction ensures the availability of the plant variety on the market, at reasonable prices, when the maintenance of a regular supply is being unduly hampered by the title holder. Any part having legitimate interest may request this measure if there is evidence that the requester has attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain a voluntary license from the holder of the cultivar.
Conversely, the second restriction is declared ex officio by the MAPA, based on a technical opinion issued by the competent agencies. Article 36 of Brazilian PVP Law allows restricted public use declaration in case of national emergency, abuse of economic power or other circumstances of extreme urgency. The cultivar may be exploited directly by the Federal Union or by third parties designed by it.
According to article 6 of the law its provisions also applies to applications for PVP originating abroad and filed within the country by a natural or legal person whose protection is ensured by a treaty effective in Brazil. It is important to note that the person domiciled abroad shall appoint and maintain an agent with power of attorney domiciled in Brazil to represent him/her in dealings with the SNPC.
In addition, the term of protection under Brazilian law is basically the minimum settled at UPOV Convention: fifteen years. For vines and fruit, forest and ornamental trees, including their rootstock, the period is eighteen years. Both periods begin in the date of grant of the Provisional Certificate of Protection issued by SNPC, and at the end of such term the cultivar shall pass into the public domain.
The law also ensures that any person who infringes the rights of a protected plant variety shall be bound to indemnify the title holder as well as shall be deemed guilty of the crime of infringement of the rights of the breeder.
The increasing of agricultural activities depends on plant variety protection for planting and harvesting. Consequentially, nowadays intellectual property has a tight relationship and is becoming a more and more important issue for agribusiness.