IPR Issues in Agri Biotechnology
Authors: Mohan Dadarwal and Harsh Vardhan Singh Shekhawat

R&D in agri biotechnology is extremely time consuming and requires huge investment, granting Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is an effective tool to protect biotechnology inventions. This allow the inventor to restrict the use of the intellectual property i.e. no one is allowed to use manufacture, grow, sell or offer to sell the invention without permission. Several forms of this protection exist and they include copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, plant breeder's rights and patents. IPR play a pivotal role between the donor and recipient while transferring of agri-biotech information.

Biotechnology is a popular generic technology of the 21st century. It offers high precision and efficiency for crop and livestock improvement. R&D in biotechnology is extremely time consuming and requires huge investment, granting Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is an effective tool to protect biotechnology inventions.

What is Intellectual Property ?

Intellectual property represents products of the mind or intellect. they are such innovative ideas that when converted to tangible forms, can be protected. Examples of intellectual properties include scientific inventions, computer soft ware's, publications, videotapes, music and plant varieties.

Developing such products usually requires a great deal of time and financial investment. Therefore, the investor usually seeks a return on his effort by acquiring IPR (Intellectual Property Rights). They allow the inventor to restrict the use of the intellectual property i.e. no one is allowed to use manufacture, grow, sell or offer to sell the invention without permission. Several forms of this protection exist and they include copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, plant breeder's rights and patents.

The ownership of intellectual property rights in agri-biotech is now an issue in the development of products and transfer of technology to the developing countries. Scientists now need to consider IPRs as an important factor in their research, especially where the aim is product development. Since the early 1990s, most of the major research organizations, whether public or private sector are actively considering and implementing IPR policies.

How to promote the transfer of agri-biotechnology?

Crops grown for subsistence use in developing countries and the technologies that are used to develop such crops are clearly of little commercial interest to the private sector. Thus donating proprietary technologies to develop such crops is a realistic possibility and in fact is already happening. Both the technology donor and the recipient must be aware of the IPR issues involved in the technology and there will often be a need for partnerships in which there is mutual trust among all parties.

How do we protect our rights?

The main ways to protect our intellectual property rights include copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, plant breeder's rights and patents. Among the five the last two are the most relevant forms of intellectual property protection in plant breeding.

Earlier in India there was no legislation to protect plant varieties. However after becoming a signatory to TRIPS Agreement, need for such legislation was felt since Article 27.3(b) of TRIPS Agreement made It mandatory to provide protection for plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof, the choice having been left to the signatorystates.

In India, a sui generis system for protection of plant varieties was developed, integrating the rights of breeders, farmers and village communities. Sui generis enables designing of one's own system of protection for plant varieties as an alternative or addition to a patent system for protecting plants. As a result of this legislation in India IPR protection came into being for new plant varieties as Protection of Plant Varieties in the shape of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights (PPVFR) Act in 2001. This development created favorable legal conditions for international partnerships in biotechnology R&D. The UPOV affords protection to those plant breeders who produce plant varieties fulfilling the criteria of distinctiveness, uniformity and stability (DUS). However, the current version of the UPOV in 1991 had added additional criteria of 'new' to DUS thus rendering DUS as NDUS .

DUS test for Genetically Modified Crop Varieties: - There are certain requirements/Precautions taken during DUS test of GM crop/varieties.

For assessment of risk of contamination due to GM crop to the non GM crops ,the information about the extent of natural cross pollination with its relatives should be provided by the applicant.

Details about the relatives (natives) and their ecological role in natural ecosystem.

Advertisement in local News paper for informing about the DUS Test of GM variety so that any neighboring farmers may raise objections if they want to do so.

Maintenance of minimum isolation distance to check the escape of pollen from GM crop to other non GM crops.

Planting of at least 6 m pollen barrier of non GM crop around the DUS test plot of GM variety.

Frequent and surprise inspection visits by officials of Department of Environment .

Disposal of seed of GM variety after completion of test by burying it in the land pit.

Plant breeder's rights :- The plant breeder's rights are used to protect new varieties of plants by giving exclusive commercial rights for about 20-25 years to market a new variety or its reproducible material. The variety must be novel, distinct, uniform and stable. This protection prevents anyone from growing or selling the variety without the owner's permission.

Patenting :- A patent is an exclusive right given to an inventor to exclude all others from making ,using, selling or offering to sell the invention in the country that granted the patent right and importing it into that country. In agricultural biotechnology patenting on plant transformation method, germless, vectors, genes, transgenic plants and animals etc. is the most common in recent years. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is the IP leader with over 60 granted patents in various field of plant and animals sciences, including biotechnology, dairy technology, animal disease diagnostics, and therapeutics, engineering and post harvest processing, and environmental science. Patents are the most critical forms of protection for agricultural biotechnology and considered to be the most powerful in the intellectual property system. Patents are temporary, generally for 20 years and country specific.

Conclusion

Publicly funded research institutions should build up their capacity to manage intellectual properties that they procure and those that they generate. Partnership between the private and public sectors in technology development through sharing of technical know- how hastens the transfer of technology and acquisition on both sides. Similarly, managing the intellectual property rights play a pivotal role between the donor and recipient while transferring of agri-biotech information to the developing countries.

About Author / Additional Info:
We are doing Ph.D from the Plant breeding and Genetics.