PBR enforcement numbers highest on record

Financial penalties can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the level of illegal sales

Wheat seeds spilling from hand, close-up

This past year was the busiest on record for plant breeders’ rights education and enforcement.

Todd Hyra, western Canadian business manager for SeCan, said there were over 400 advertisements for seed sales that required investigation industry-wide through the Canadian Plant Technology Agency (CPTA), the body established to protect intellectual property rights.

“SeCan alone had 40 cases that resulted in legal action and to date 20 of these cases have been completed,” Hyra says.

Of those 20 cases that have been settled, there were two in Manitoba, one in Portage la Prairie, involving CDC Big Brown and one in Teulon, involving AC Carberry.

Financial penalties can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the level of illegal sales. The largest case to date was settled for $150,000. Infringers are required to sign a declaration disclosing all sales, and stating they will not make illegal sales in the future.

Part of the education process is to let the industry know seed companies take the enforcement seriously. Awareness is the important first step and SeCan talks about the importance of PBR whenever possible, Hyra said.

To stay on side Hyra says there are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Most new varieties have some form of protection — don’t assume a variety is not protected.
  • If a variety is protected under PBR, it is illegal to sell common seed, even if you don’t use the variety name.
  • Under PBR, it is OK to keep seed on your farm — as long as the farm-saved rights are not pre-empted by another agreement or contract.
  • Under the new PBR ’91 rules, both the buyer and seller are responsible for the infringement.

In a media release SeCan noted that the goal of PBR is to encourage investment in plant breeding in Canada, which will help ensure Canadian growers have access to the best available varieties by rewarding breeders’ time and investment. The organization also noted that the protections tend to benefit smaller companies and public breeders such as universities, rather than large companies that rely more on patents and contracts to protect their intellectual property.

More information is available at PBRFacts.ca.

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