About Author: Mr ASN Reddy is a seed industry veteran with more than 35 years of industry experience across various functions. He is a post graduate in Seed technology and held several key managerial positions such as CEO Delta Agrigenetics, COO of SeedWorks, Seed Operations-Head in Nunhems and Seed Quality Lead in Pioneer, etc. He is currently the President, Seedsman Association, Hyderabad, one of the oldest industry association in India. He is also serving as the General Secretary of the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) and has been and a champion of industry and farmer issues.
India is mainly an agricultural country and rich in its biological diversity. Agriculture sector provides livelihood to 65-70 percent of the total population. Our farmers toil day and night in the fields to feed our population. Seed is the primary agriculture-input which encapsulates the genetic potential of the crop plant that emerges out of it and upon which, all other inputs and farmers efforts are invested. The Indian families depend on agriculture not only for their livelihood, but because agriculture has become a way of life in India, playing a dominant role in Indian economy.
In this background, an IPR law, covering plants, varieties and seeds, must be a balanced Act, protecting the interest of all the stakeholders. India, having ratified the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, was obliged to give effect to its sub-para (b) of para 3 of article 27 to provide protection to plant and varieties. India, in view of the importance of agriculture in the Indian context, opted for a sui generis (of a special kind or unique to a particular context) system for providing protection to plants, varieties and seeds, enacted the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act).
Spotting the difference!
This is a unique legislation, which, by providing protection to plant varieties and farmers’ and breeder’s rights, stimulates investment in research and development and creation of new varieties and facilitates growth of the seed industry to ensure the availability of high quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.
India, after having provided protection for plants and varieties under the PPVFR Act, amended the Patents Act, 1970 in 2002 to keep plants and their parts thereof, plant varieties and seeds outside the scope of the Patents Act. By an amendment in 2002, inter alia, clause (c) Section 3 was amended and clause (j) was incorporated under Section 3. By these amendments, “discovery of any living thing or non-living substances occurring in the nature” and “plants and animals in whole or any part thereof other than micro-organisms but including seeds, varieties and species and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals are not inventions within the meaning of the Patents Act.” As per Section 3(h), a method of agriculture or horticulture is also not an invention.
So, there is no ambiguity on the pertinent legislation for protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for Plant varieties in India. Therefore, the Patents Act and the PPVFR Act operate in two different fields and patent act is not relevant provision for IPR protection to processes and products related to plant varieties and seeds which are produced through essential biological processes (sexual crossing by pollination or plant breeding process) to produce them.
“This is a unique legislation, which, by providing protection to plant varieties and farmers’ and breeder’s rights, stimulates investment in R&D and creation of new varieties and facilitates growth of the seed industry”