Plant breeder’s rights (PBRs) enable plant breeders to protect new varieties of plants for commercial ends. PBR owners can exclude others from commercially using the registered variety and the variety’s name. This provides the opportunity for the right holder to collect royalties while directing the variety’s production, sale and distribution.

PBRs provide a maximum duration of 25 years of protection for eligible plant varieties. To receive protection, a plant variety must be clearly distinguishable from other varieties, uniform and stable on propagation. In addition, a plant variety must be clearly identified, as must the person or persons responsible for its development.

PBR applications and grants

In 2020, a total of 316 PBR applications were filed in Australia, up 12 per cent from their level in 2019. Following a relatively stable growth trend between 2012 and 2016, application levels were volatile between 2016 and 2020 (Figure PB1).

Following an increase in the number of grants in 2019, the number of PBRs that were granted in Australia decreased by 24 per cent to 212 in 2020, close to its average level over the past decade. To be granted, an application must pass a substantive examination process and, in most cases, a comparative growing trial conducted in Australia.

Figure PB1. PBR applications and grants, 2011–20

Plant varieties

Two plant groups, ornamentals and fruit crops were the strongest performers in PBR applications in 2020 (Figure PB2). Ornamental plant varieties retained the first place for their total number of applications (with a total of 106), comprising 34 per cent of all applications. Applications for ornamental varieties have declined since 2011 when a peak of 171 applications were recorded.

Fruit crops ranked second with 90 applications, accounting for 29 per cent of the total. Applications for fruit crops have seen more volatile change than ornamentals, with an overall increasing trend between 2011 and 2018, a sharp drop in 2019 possibly due to the flooding in North Queensland and drought in New South Wales, and a rebound in 2020 reaching close to its average level of the past decade.

Figure PB2. PBR applications for Ornamental and Fruit crop varieties, 2011–20

Resident and non-resident filings and registrations

In 2020, Australian residents filed 125 applications, accounting for 40 per cent of all PBR applications in Australia. Resident filings decreased by 16 per cent from their level in 2019. In contrast, applications by non-residents increased by 43 per cent in 2019-20 (from 134 to 191 applications).

The increase in applications by non-residents has restored their position as the dominant source for PBR filings in Australia, which held between 2012 and 2018, after residents increased their share of total filings in 2019 (Figure PB3).

Figure PB3. Share of PBR applications by residents and non-residents, 2011–20

In 2020, Australian residents registered 105 PBRs, accounting for 50 per cent of total registrations. Registrations by residents decreased by 21 per cent from their level in 2019, while registrations by non-residents fell by 27 per cent, to 107 registrations in total.

Countries of origin

The US and the Netherlands continued to be the two major overseas countries of origin for applications, accounting for 61 per cent of overseas filings in 2020. In 2020, applications from the US rebounded from their lowest point in the last decade, 36 filings in 2019, to 62 filings in 2020. Applications from The Netherlands also rebounded in 2020, from 27 to 54 filings

Leading applicants

Table PB1 lists the leading resident and non-resident applicants for PBR applications in Australia. Among domestic applicants, Australian Grain Technologies, NuFlora International, and Plant Growers Australia filed 10 applications each in 2020. Australian Grain Technologies is Australia’s largest plant breeding company and market leader in wheat genetics; NuFlora International specialises in developing and commercialising ornamental plant cultivars for domestic and international markets; Plant Growers Australia is an innovative wholesale production nursery. Rolfe Nominees, an Australian private corporation, filed 6 applications. Mr Ian Shimmen, an Australian resident, filed 5 applications.

Table PB1. Top domestic and international applicants for PBRs in Australia, 2020

Top domestic applicants Top international applicants
Rank Applicant Total applications Rank change Rank Applicant Total applications Rank change
1 Australian Grain Technologies 10 new 1 Rijk Zwaan Zaadteelt en Zaadhandel B.V. 19 new
1 NuFlora International 10 new 2 Eden Collection B.V. 7 new
1 Plant Growers Australia 10 - 2 The Regents of the University of California 7 new
2 Rolfe Nominees 6 new 3 Zaiger's Inc. Genetics 6 new
3 Mr Ian Shimmen 5 new 4 Nunhems B.V. 5 ↓3
4 TerViva BioEnergy 5 new
4 VILMORIN S.A. 5 new

For international applicants, Rijk Zwaan, a vegetable breeding company based in the Netherlands and operating in 30 different countries, was the top PBR filer in Australia with 19 applications. Eden Collection, another Dutch company, and The Regents of the University of California filed 7 applications each. Zaiger’s Inc. Genetics, a US-based company focused on stone fruit breeding, filed 6 applications. Nunhems, a multinational company with their headquarters in the Netherlands who provide wholesale vegetable seeds and crops filed 5 applications, as did TerViva BioEnergy, a US agriculture technology firm, and Vilmorin, a French seed producer.

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