House of Commons
Other Bills before Parliament
Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)
|Plant Varieties Bill
|EXPLANATORY AND FINANCIAL MEMORANDUM
| The Bill sets out a new framework for plant breeders' rights in the United Kingdom and makes provision about the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal. It also extends the time limit for institution of proceedings for contravention of seeds regulations.
| The Bill repeals and re-enacts with amendment Part I of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964 (as amended). The new regime conforms to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants as last revised on 19 March 1991, thus enabling the United Kingdom to ratify it.
| Clause 1 provides that plant breeders' rights may subsist in any variety of a plant genus or species, and defines "variety" for the purposes of the Bill.
| Clause 2 provides for the continued existence of the Plant Variety Rights Office, headed by the Controller, and introduces Schedule 1 which makes further provision about the staffing of the Office and the authority of its officers.
| Clause 3 requires the Controller to grant plant breeders' rights to an applicant if he is satisfied that the conditions in Clause 4 and Schedule 2 are met. It enables the Controller to require an applicant to submit certain information or material.
| Clause 4 and Schedule 2 define the conditions for a grant of rights, and provide that the person applying for rights must be the person entitled to them in respect of the variety. The conditions are that the variety must be distinct, stable, uniform and new, and Schedule 2, Part I states how it is determined whether these criteria are met. The person entitled to a grant of rights in a variety is the person who breeds it, or discovers and develops it, or an employer where the variety is bred, or discovered and developed, by an employee in the course of his employment. Schedule 2, Part II explains how priority is established where two or more people have independently bred, or discovered and developed, the same variety.
| Clause 5 provides for provisional protection of a variety in the period between submission of an application for a grant of rights and the grant.
| Clause 6 defines the scope of the breeder's right. Specific acts which the holder of rights can prevent anyone doing as respects propagating material are listed. Ministers may by regulations prescribe additional acts. The holder of rights may authorise a person to do these acts, with or without conditions.
| Where harvested material is obtained through the unauthorised use of propagating material, and the holder of rights has not had reasonable opportunity to exercise those rights in respect of the propagating material, he may exercise them in respect of the harvested material. Ministers may also prescribe by regulations products in respect of which the holder may exercise rights, where these products are obtained through the unauthorised use of harvested material and the holder has not had reasonable opportunity to exercise his rights in respect of the propagating or harvested material.
| Clause 7 provides that the holder of plant breeders' rights shall also have the rights conferred by Clause 6 in respect of a variety which is dependent on a protected variety. Dependent varieties are those whose production requires the repeated use of the protected variety (mainly hybrids) and essentially derived varieties.
| Clause 8 exempts certain acts from the breeder's right.
| Clause 9 exempts from the breeder's right a farmer's use as seed, on his own holding, of harvested material obtained from the holding (ie the use of farm saved seed). This exemption is limited to species or groups prescribed by Ministers by order. Farmers who use farm saved seed of a protected variety are liable to pay the holder of rights equitable remuneration which is sensibly lower than the royalty payable on certified seed in the same area. Small farmers are exempt from this requirement. Farmers who have saved seed of a particular variety before this Bill comes into force may continue to do so, free of charge, until Ministers discontinue this exemption by Order. This clause also gives Ministers powers to make regulations providing for other matters relating to farm saved seed.
| Clause 10 describes the circumstances in which plant breeders' rights are exhausted.
| Clause 11 prescribes the duration of plant breeders' rights as 25 years, except for trees, vines and potatoes where rights are granted for 30 years. Ministers may by regulations extend the duration of rights for species or groups.
| Clause 12 provides for plant breeders' rights to be assignable like other proprietary rights.
| Clause 13 provides remedies for infringement.
| Clause 14 sets out the duty of a holder of plant breeders' rights to maintain the existence of a protected variety.
| Clause 15 enables the Controller to issue a compulsory licence where he is satisfied that the holder of rights has unreasonably refused to grant a licence to an applicant, or has put forward or imposed unreasonable terms in offering or granting a licence. The Controller must be satisfied that it is in the public interest to issue a compulsory licence and that the applicant intends and is able to exploit the rights in the licence. The Controller sets the terms of a compulsory licence, taking account of the need both to make the variety available and to provide a reasonable return for the holder of the rights.
| Clause 16 provides for Ministers to make regulations laying down detailed requirements relating to the naming of varieties. It also provides for the publication of names and proposed names.
| Clause 17 imposes a duty to use the registered name in selling, offering for sale or otherwise marketing propagating material of a protected variety. Contravention is a criminal offence, for which a fine of up to £1,000 may be imposed.
| Clause 18 makes it an infringement of plant breeders' rights to use the registered name of a protected variety in selling, offering for sale or otherwise marketing any material of another variety within the same, or a closely related, class or group as a protected variety.
| Clause 19 requires the Controller to declare a plant breeders' right null and void if it is subsequently established that the variety was not distinct or new at the time rights were granted, or that rights were granted to a person not entitled to them. The Controller must also declare rights null and void where uniformity or stability were established from information provided by the applicant which is subsequently shown to have been incorrect.
| Clause 20 enables the Controller to terminate rights where the variety is no longer uniform or stable, or where the holder of rights is not able to comply with his duty to maintain the variety. The Controller may also terminate rights on application by the holder.
| Clause 21 enables the Controller to suspend plant breeders' rights where the holder of rights fails to comply with the terms of a compulsory licence.
| Clause 22 enables Ministers to make regulations providing for rights to make representations to the Controller, or a person appointed by him, in the case of decisions where an appeal lies to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal.
| Clause 23 enables the Controller to hear representations on compulsory licence applications from interested parties other than the applicant where the holder of rights is, or is represented by, a trade or similar organisation.
| Clause 24 defines which decisions taken by the Controller can be appealed to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal. It also enables Ministers to make regulations prescribing other matters on which appeals may be made to the Tribunal.
| Clause 25 provides that the Controller is to act under the general direction of Ministers, except when taking decisions which can be appealed to the Tribunal.
| Clause 26 provides for Ministers to make regulations concerning the way in which the Controller is to discharge his functions under this part of the Bill.
| Clause 27 enables Ministers by regulations to prescribe fees in respect of plant breeders' rights and authorise the Controller to refuse applications or terminate rights for non-payment of fees.
| Clause 28 allows the Controller to use the services of people not employed by the Plant Variety Rights Office to do tests and trials on plant varieties.
| Clause 29 makes it an offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 to give false information in applications to the Controller for decisions against which an appeal may be submitted to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal. It is also an offence to give false information about whether a protected variety is being properly maintained in accordance with the requirements of Clause 14.
| Clause 30 makes it an offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 for a person to make a false claim that he is entitled to exercise plant breeders' rights.
| Clause 31 exempts plant breeders' rights licences and assignments from the provisions of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976.
| Clause 32 allows the Controller to establish and maintain reference collections of plant material and to contribute to the expenses of other persons who maintain reference collections.
| Clause 33 provides that where an offence is committed by a corporate body with the consent of a director, secretary or similar officer, or can be attributed to negligence by that person, the individual as well as the corporate body is guilty of the offence and can be punished accordingly.
| Clause 34 allows proceedings to be brought in whichever part of the United Kingdom the accused person is.
| Clause 36 defines the extent to which the Bill applies to the Crown.
| Clause 37 applies the Bill to plant breeders' rights granted under the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964.
| Clause 38 enables applications for a grant of rights to be considered for varieties of recent creation. These are varieties which have been exploited for up to 4 years (6 years for trees and vines) in the United Kingdom and which would otherwise not meet the requirement in Clause 4 that they must be new. In order to qualify, a variety must be of a species or group which was not offered protection under the 1964 Act and the application for rights must be submitted within a year of Part I of the Bill coming into force.
| Clauses 39 to 43 provide for the continued existence of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal and define its jurisdiction. Ministers are given powers to make regulations about appeals. Matters of detail are laid down in Schedule 3 which prescribes such matters as the constitution and membership of the Tribunal, where it may sit and how it makes decisions and awards costs. Schedule 3 also provides for the Lord Chancellor to make rules of procedure in connection with proceedings before the Tribunal.
| Clause 44 amends the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964 to extend the time limit for bringing proceedings for contraventions of seeds regulations from 6 to 12 months. This clause does not apply to Northern Ireland.
| Clauses 45 and 46 contain general provisions on regulations and orders and interpretation.
| Clause 47 requires fees paid by virtue of this Bill to be paid to the Consolidated Fund.
| Clauses 48 and 49 and Schedule 4 contain consequential amendments and repeals.
| Clause 50 provides that the Bill extends to Northern Ireland (apart from Clause 44) and provides for its extension to the Channel Islands and Isle of Man by Order in Council.
|Financial effects of the Bill
| The Bill is not expected to result in any changes to public expenditure. In particular, it is not envisaged that the extension of the possibility of protection to all genera and species will in practice result in any increased expenditure.
|Effects of the Bill on public service manpower
| There are none.
|Business Compliance Cost Assessment
| The provisions of this Bill which may give rise to additional costs for business are in Clause 9, and enable holders of rights to claim equitable remuneration, sensibly lower than the royalty on certified seed, in some circumstances when farmers use farm saved seed. A full compliance cost assessment of the effects of this provision on farmers, seed processors and holders of plant breeders' rights is available in the Library of both Houses, or from the Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, White House Lane, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0LF.
| There is none.
|© Parliamentary copyright 1997
|Prepared 12 June 1997