Plant breeder’s rights reform

It is an important time for plant breeder’s rights (PBR) in Australia.

We have set up a dedicated program to explore Australia’s plant breeding ecosystem and the role of PBR. We are doing research to understand the current landscape, challenges, and opportunities. From this, we will make recommendations for future improvements. This page is a place to stay informed and get involved.

Our focus on the future of PBR

New plant varieties can benefit the economy and society as a whole. The Australian PBR system exists to encourage new plant varieties being developed.

Technologies and industries connected with plant breeding continue to advance and evolve. However, PBR legislation has largely remained the same since it was introduced in 1994.

The Australian Government has committed to supporting the agricultural industry reach its Ag2030 goal of $100 billion in production by 2030. Improving how we protect new plant varieties in Australia could play a role in reaching this goal.

Through our research, we want to be sure PBR is:

fit for purpose

supporting plant breeding industries

connected with the Government’s priorities relating to agriculture and growth.

This research is being done alongside our ongoing work to progress improvements related to PBR. This includes issues already captured on our Policy Register.

We will also be looking at the intersection between Indigenous Knowledge and PBR.

Research

Through interview, economic, and other forms of research, we are analysing Australia’s plant breeding ecosystem and how PBR is used.

We are focused on the current and future needs of Australian agriculture (which we mean to include all industries that PBR is relevant to, including diverse horticulture, nursery products, and emerging rural industries) and PBR’s contribution and role.

Early economic research findings have been featured in the PBR chapter of the 2022 Australian IP Report.

Throughout 2022 we will publish research, data, and next steps emerging from our research.

Themes that have emerged so far include:

  • Pressing IT and system issues that underpin and surround the PBR process
  • The practicalities of growing trials and the broader examination process, and how the process aligns with commercial realities and the purpose of PBR
  • Role and needs of Qualified Persons in the PBR process
  • ‘Non-visible’ characteristics in testing for distinctness in the PBR process
  • Complexity and cost of enforcement
  • Long-term issues contained within the PBR legislation itself
  • Overlaps, conflicts, and crossovers between PBR and other registered IP rights – in particular, trade marks and patents
  • Collection, relevance and use of PBR data – including what applicants are required to provide at different stages of the PBR process and what information is made publicly available through search and information systems
  • Indigenous Knowledge and implications of developments in this space across plant breeding, introducing new varieties, and PBR
  • Written information sources about PBR not meeting the needs of industries who need them
  • A gap in public education and awareness work targeted at particular industries and problems experienced that can be attributed to a lack of knowledge

Some of the themes are captured by, or are linked closely to, issues already on IP Australia’s Policy Register. Some relate to work underway at IP Australia to uplift and modernise aspects of our services, IT systems, processes, and information.

We will continue to share updates on this page, and some more information about our research methodologies is included below.

We started our research program with one-on-one interviews. Between October 2021 and early January 2022, we held 70 interviews with stakeholders.

Their industries included:

  • broadacre crops
  • nurseries
  • cut flowers
  • cultivated turf
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • vegetables
  • other emerging industries.

Most people we interviewed either breed new plant varieties or are part of the supply chain introducing new varieties in Australia. In these categories, approximately 70% had applied for or owned at least one PBR.

We also spoke to a variety of advisers and interested parties around the PBR system, including Qualified Persons (QPs), IP attorneys, academics, and industry bodies.

Interviews were held virtually or via phone due to COVID-19 limitations and were semi-structured for free-flowing, open conversations.

We have committed to the privacy of those involved. Interview participants will remain de-identified.


We have partnered with Swinburne University’s Centre for Transformative Innovation to do economic research.

PBR plays a valuable role in the Australian economy. We recognise that the number of applications filed each year is only a small part of this story.

To enable this research, we have:

More details about the methodologies, results, and findings will be made available later in 2022.









Global landscape

Our research is particularly focused on Australian industries and the Australian economy. However, our place in the global landscape is also critically important for PBR.

Australia is a member of the 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV treaty). Australia is committed to maintaining a system of plant variety protection with the features agreed in the UPOV treaty.

Issues relating to importing and exporting plant varieties and products are also front of mind in our review. These are very important when considering any future directions or impacts.

Connect with us

For more information, or if you want to participate in our research or collaborate with us, please contact our PBR reform program team.

Learn more about

Plant breeder’s rights at IP Australia

Plant breeder’s rights in the 2022 IP Report

Advisory Council on Intellectual Property’s Review of Enforcement of PBR

Plant breeder’s rights and IP Australia’s Indigenous Knowledge project

Plant breeder’s rights issues on IP Australia’s Policy Register

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Delivering Ag2030 plan