Naming a new plant variety

A new plant variety must have a suitable name. Proposing a new and original name for a plant variety is not an easy task. It requires a bit of thought and it can be frustrating if your chosen name is not available. There are some simple rules to help you, under these categories:

  • inventiveness
  • banned words
  • length
  • genus and common name
  • merit
  • name of a natural person or organisation
  • punctuation
  • UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New
    Varieties of Plants) name 

PBR Act - protection and compliance

Under the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994, both the name (officially called the denomination) and synonym of a plant variety are protected. A synonym is an additional name that the applicant can use to commercialise the variety in Australia.

Acceptable variety names and synonyms must comply with the Act (section 27) and the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants 2009

Subsection 27(4) of the Act states that a name (including a synonym in respect of the variety) must be a word or words (invented or not) with or without the addition of either or both of the following:

  • a letter or letters that do not constitute a word a
  • figure or figures

It may contain simply a letter or letters, numbers or combination of letters and numbers. Some special characters such as hyphen may be used.

Check your name

If you are unsure or confused about a proposed variety name, seek advice from an IP professional to check the acceptability of the name before filing your application.

Temporary name

If you are unsure of naming the variety at the time of the application, you can provide a temporary code name usually known as breeder's code. You may change the code name at any time before the final granting of PBR by proposing a new name and paying a fee.

Applications to change a granted variety's name after granting of PBR are only accepted in very limited circumstances, for example, to correct an obvious mistake or where the name breaches legislation.

Don't use a name commercially until accepted

You are strongly advised to wait until your proposed name has been accepted before having product labels and promotional materials printed. It is advisable to follow the industry labelling guidelines.

Rules for naming


Make sure your proposed name is unique and it can't be confused, either in spelling or pronunciation, with the name of another variety.


The name should not have more than 10 syllables and 30 characters (excluding spaces and single quotation marks).


The name should not exaggerate the merits of the cultivar (e.g. 'Best Ever' 'The Greatest', 'Tastiest of All' are not acceptable).

It should not only be made up of simple descriptive words (e.g. 'Red', 'Giant White', 'Small').


The only punctuation marks allowed are apostrophe, comma, hyphen, full-stop and a single exclamation mark.

Banned words

Certain words (or their equivalents in any language) are banned words and they cannot be used in the name (including their plural forms). These are:

  • cross
  • hybrid
  • grex
  • group
  • form
  • maintenance
  • mutant
  • seedling
  • selection
  • sport
  • strain
  • variety
  • improved
  • transformed

Genus and common name

If your name is a single word, make sure that the word is not the same as that of a genus, whether in botanical Latin or in a modern language.

Erica, Daphne, Iris and Veronica happen to be Latin names of genera and are not permitted as cultivar names, even though they are personal names as well. Similarly, Rose and Violet are common names of the genera and they too are not permitted.

Such words may be used in a name of two or more words, as long as it does not form the final word. (For example, 'Erica Smith', 'Iris Jones' and 'Rose Queen' are acceptable but 'Queen Rose' is not acceptable.)

The variety name should not contain the botanical or common name of its genus or the common name of any species in that genus (e.g. 'Rosa Christmas Rose', 'Potato Jim's Spud' and 'Primula White Cowslip' are not acceptable.)

Name of natural person or organisation

When the name consists of a name of a natural person living at the time of the application, a written consent to the name of the variety will be required from that person.

If the name is that of a person who died less than 10 years before the application was filed, a written consent will be required from the legal representative of that person.

If the name consists of a name of a corporation or other organisation, a written consent will be required from that organisation.

UPOV name

If an application for plant protection has previously been filed overseas, the denomination used in the first filing in a UPOV member country should be the official registered name in Australia. This is if it is not already in common use in Australia within the same denomination class  or a trade mark in Australia in respect of live plants, plant cells and plant tissues. This requirement generally ensures that the variety is known by the same name worldwide.

If you intend to market the variety under another commercial name - a name that is not the UPOV name - it is useful to consider including that name as the synonym in the Australian application.

More information

Last Updated: 17/9/2013

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Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Breeding

Plant Breeder's Rights Examiner since 1996
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