When fifth-generation apple grower Allan McLean stumbled across a chance seedling in one of his orchards, he knew it was something special. After speaking with a local fruit tree nursery, they confirmed ‘this has got a bit of potential. You better get a plant breeder’s right’.
Although Allan was already aware of plant breeder’s rights (PBR) he had never applied for one before. After some initial research into PBR, the next step for him was to find the right Qualified Person (QP). He searched on IP Australia’s Qualified Persons Directory and found Leslie Mitchell, a QP with expertise in fruit crops and accredited to certify applications. He explains ‘Les did all the technical work and helped me through the process. So, it was very smooth. Les did all the photographs and measuring the flowers…[he] submitted it all for me.’
Allan received a provisional PBR in 1999 and the variety, MC 38, was registered for an Australian PBR on 5 May 2000. He registered the trade mark Crimson Snow® after the variety’s intense red skin and consistent colouring.
The value of plant breeder’s rights
Allan’s experience in the fruit industry allowed him to see first-hand how PBR provides protection that prevents overproduction and misuse. ‘It’s important if you have something valuable to protect it. That’s the main reason [I applied for a plant breeder’s right]’ he clarifies. Although Allan has since left the fruit industry, he says that the PBR has allowed him to control his variety and license others to grow trees without the worry that his variety will be stolen. Allan is currently Managing Director of his company AD McLean Investments. He has organised for the variety to be managed through Kiku Variety Management in Italy but notes he is still very much part of the decision making. Because he retains the rights to the PBR, he can step back but still reap the benefits of his hard work in Australia. He continues to receive royalties on his variety MC 38 and has another variety in the pipeline. His endeavours prove to be both beneficial to himself and still fruitful to the Australian economy.
After attempts to commercialise trees in Australia didn’t pan out as expected, Allan set his sights on expanding internationally. Allan’s education in PBR, what it protects, and his rights enabled him to protect himself when commercialising outside of Australia.
With help from his new variety managers at Kiku Variety Management in Italy and trusty QP, Allan began registering PBR in Europe, New Zealand and the United States. The variety has now been commercialised internationally in Italy, France, Switzerland and Serbia.
The next step for this variety is to continue expanding its commercial reach overseas and gain long-lasting international partnerships. Allan and the team are looking at including New Zealand, Greece, Chile, Israel, and South Africa to their list of ever-growing opportunities. This involves a lot of long-term preparation with trials already starting in some of these countries.
Allan’s top tips for success
Allan’s advice to other fruit grower’s or businesses looking to invest in IP protection is:
- Get a good QP to help you. As an apple grower, I don’t have expertise in this area and it really made the whole process easier.
- If you think you’ve got something – good. Don’t hesitate to do it! Being a fruit grower, I actually enjoyed the whole process.
- Don’t give up! It’s a long-term process. There were a few times where I thought I am wasting my time with this and my late father encouraged me to keep going. It was worth it.
Please note: case studies are examples of the way some organisations have chosen to manage their IP. These studies don't provide advice and your experience may be different.