Intellectual Property Rights are basically assumed to protect everything from original plays and novels to inventions and company trademarks. So the concept of Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) might seem a little strange. The main reason is that Intellectual Property rights were not originally extended to include plant variety management, because the agricultural sector happens to be vital for meeting the food requirements of the people at large and granting exclusive rights to any specific individual would therefore be flawed. However plant breeders’ rights are essential for economic growth of any nation and it is of utmost importance to encourage the farmers to contribute for the development of new plant varieties, thereby accelerating agricultural development.

Plant Breeders’ Rights – An Overview

Plant Breeders’ Rights are also a form of intellectual property which is specifically designed to protect new plant varieties. The right as defined by UPOV is, an exclusive right over the commercial production and marketing of the reproductive or vegetative propagating material of the protected variety. These rights are assigned to the breeder of a new variety of plant which gives him/her exclusive control over it; be it seeds, flowers, fruits, foliage or the like. Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act was framed in India in the year 2001 to grant rights to the farmers as well as the breeders. This Act is significant in both domestic and international context because India was one of the first countries in the World to have passed legislation in this regard. As per the Act, breeders can claim the Intellectual Property Right, provided their varieties are novel, distinct, uniform and stable and are given an exclusive right to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the variety.

The downside of the concept

Similar to other streams of IP, the plant breeders also enjoy the same benefits. However, extending IP rights to plant breeders has certain downfalls. While trying to distribute these rights to various rights holders, we are faced with the tragedy of anti-commons, thereby creating a co-ordination breakdown. The tragedy of the anti-commons refers to underuse of resources arising from multiple ownership or rights to exclude others from use. It may occur when too many people are granted rights over a resource with no one having an effective privilege of use.


A person who feels appreciated can do wonders; after all, we are merely human beings! Similarly, plant breeders require encouragement which will nudge them to be innovative, thereby developing the agricultural sector. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act proves to be the much needed legislation to take the agricultural sector to the next level. The farmers are motivated to produce more and better varieties and also guaranteeing a higher level of income, all along developing the economy as a whole.

This article has been authored by Jayashri Suresh, an IP Law practitioner.