The Nagoya Protocol and plant science

Categories: intellectual property
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 28, 2014

There is some legislation struggling through the EU at the moment that could have a big impact on UK plant science – not least, a potential mountain of paperwork for sharing certain genetic material. It is the EU Regulation to implement the Nagoya Protocol, a section of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). For those of you who (like me!) are new to regulations surrounding plant genetic material and breeders’ rights, I’ve given a simple background summary before explaining the new goings-on.

The Convention of Biological Diversity

The CBD is based on the principle that biodiversity is valuable – scientists and industrialists have been ‘bioprospecting’ for centuries, hoping to find something of scientific interest, and preferably also economic worth. The CBD reaffirmed the sovereign rights of a country over the genetic material found within its boarders, and aimed to ensure the states that signed up to it conserved their own biodiversity, used its components sustainability, and shared benefits arising from it responsibly and fairly. It came into force in 1993 after 168 parties had signed up, and now covers over 180 countries.

The Plant Treaty

A second significant agreement linked to the current Nagoya Protocol discussions is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (often referred to more easily as ‘The Plant Treaty’), which sets out special treatment for 64 important agricultural crops that between them provide 80% of human food globally. It was adopted in 2001 and recognizes the rights of all stakeholders in significant plant genetic material – the country of origin, scientists, breeders and farmers. Now, 13 years on from the adoption of the treaty, there is a well established Standard Material Transfer Agreement for access and benefit sharing of genetic materials, which is relatively simple to use, pragmatic and well understood by the plant breeding community. (more…)

Intellectual Property Rights in Plant Research

Categories: guest blogger
Comments: No Comments
Published on: January 15, 2013
A protein, a method, a plant line or variety, or many other products of plant research, may be your intellectual property and can be protected.

Frances Salisbury is a Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis LLP. She has a PhD from University of Edinburgh, where she researched the role of phytochrome photoreceptors in root development in Arabidopsis thaliana. She agreed to guest post on intellectual property rights in plant science – enjoy! 

Patents and other intellectual property rights can be a controversial topic in the area of plant research, and much confusion exists about what protection is available, whether such work should be protected, and how this impacts on academic research. In this article, I hope to provide a very brief introduction to some of the different intellectual property rights that are available for plant research, particularly thinking about aspects that might be protectable by a patent.

So, why would you want to protect your plant research?  Essentially, licensing and selling intellectual property rights can be used to create revenue for future research, or might be exchanged for the right to use other people’s ideas and technologies in your research. Many organisations and researchers consider intellectual property rights to be valuable assets.

Certainly, if you are thinking of working with a commercial partner, or sharing information or expertise with them, it is worth thinking about whether you should have protection in place before you talk to them, to try to ensure that both sides will benefit from the collaboration. Your institute’s technology transfer team will be able to help you with assessing whether you could protect your work with an intellectual property right.

Researchers often favour publishing over patenting, but there is no reason why the two cannot be done together, without delaying publication. If you think you have something that might be patentable, I would suggest approaching your technology transfer team to talk it through at an early stage, and particularly if you are preparing a manuscript. Patent attorneys are used to working with research scientists to draft and file patent applications before any disclosure of the work (which may be detrimental to the patent process), but without delaying manuscript submission or preventing conference presentations or posters, so you should not assume that patenting your idea will hinder publication. Indeed, many patent attorneys have once been research scientists themselves, so are well aware of the desire to publish without hindrance.

What might you protect? Well, a number of different types of intellectual property right are available to plant scientists, depending on what it is that is to be protected. (more…)

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