Chapter 5

Canola (Brassica napus)

Application no:

IP Report 2018

Plant Breeder's Rights

Plant breeder's rights (PBRs) are used to protect new varieties of plants that are distinguishable, uniform and stable. Examples of PBRs in Australia include water-efficient wheat and bullseye lettuce.

As well as meeting a set of criteria to pass examination, a PBR must also:

  • be distinct from other varieties of the same plant
  • be uniform and stable
  • not have been exploited or sold outside certain time limits
  • have an identified breeder and an acceptable name.

A PBR gives its owner the right to exclude others from commercially using or selling a plant variety. This provides the opportunity for the right holder to collect royalties while directing the production, sale and distribution of varieties. Other plant breeders can freely use parts of a registered PBR to experiment with, use non-commercially or develop a new variety for commercial use.

PBR applications: In 2017, the number of PBR applications received in Australia decreased by around 11 per cent from 387 to 343 applications (Figure 13). This is the first decline since 2012, and was driven by a 21 per cent fall in applications by non-residents, effectively reversing their growth in 2016. Australian resident applications increased by five per cent and the share of PBR applications by Australian residents returned to 43 per cent of the total, after declining in 2016.

Figure 13: PBR applications by domicile, 2008-17

  • Orange bar Resident
  • Yellow bar Non-resident

Applicant origin: The US continues to be the largest source of PBR applications, accounting for around 32 per cent of non-resident applications and 18 per cent of total applications in 2017. The other top non-resident filers were the Netherlands (10 per cent of total applications), Japan (five per cent), the UK (four per cent), France (three per cent) and Spain (three per cent).

PBR registrations: A PBR application is subject to a preliminary examination and, where required, a comparative trial before final examination. Successful applications are ultimately registered. IP Australia registered 245 PBRs in 2017, of which 16 were native species. Registrations more than doubled after the record low of 2016, returning to the level of preceding years (Figure 14). There is little correlation between filings in a year and registrations in the same year, since most applications take more than 12 months to register. The steep rise in PBR registrations in 2017 is largely a recovery from the trough of 2016, which, as noted in the Australian IP Report 2017, was caused by staff resourcing constraints at IP Australia in that year.

Figure 14: PBR registrations by domicile, 2008-17

  • Orange bar Resident
  • Yellow bar Non-resident

Non-residents were the major contributors to PBR registrations at IP Australia in 2017. Non-resident registrations more than tripled, after plunging by two-thirds in 2016, and now comprise 60 per cent of total registrations. As with PBR applications, the US and the Netherlands were the top two sources of PBR registrations, together accounting for half of non-resident registrations. Australian resident registrations also increased by 40 per cent.

Plant varieties: The development of plant varieties occurred largely in ornamentals and fruit crops which made up 37 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, of total registrations in 2017. Field crops (16 per cent) and vegetable crops (12 per cent) also accounted for significant proportions of the 245 PBR registrations. Plant varieties increased across most of the plant groups, except for amenity grasses and turf.

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