What Are Plant Patents? – Protecting Innovation in the Agriculture Industry

calendar04 Apr, 2023
timeReading Time: 5 Minutes
What Are Plant Patents? - Protecting Innovation in the Agriculture Industry

You might only be aware that a plant patent can be secured if you work in a field (agriculture, medicines, medical research etc.) that is heavily reliant on plants. A plant or seed has the potential of being patented in several nations if it can be identified by a single genetic sequence produced through research. On the other hand, India has issued numerous process patents for genetically modified plants.

What is a Plant Patent?

It provides new and unique plant varieties that have been developed or found by the breeders with legal protection. For up to twenty years after the date of the patent application filing date, protection is given to a plant patent. During this period, the owner of the patent has exclusive authority over the plant’s propagation, sale, and distribution. An invention can be only created, used and sold by its inventor with the use of a patent, a legal document that has been approved by the government.

Those who create new, distinctive cultivars through invention, discovery, and asexual reproduction are given plant patents. With this patent, the owner can stop others from asexually reproducing the new plant without first entering into a license agreement. By preventing rivals from using the plant, a plant patent can assist an innovator in securing higher income during the duration of the patent protection. The plant patent must satisfy a number of criteria.

Eligibility Criteria to Patent a Plant

The following are the criteria to file a Patent for a Plant:

  • The plant variety should be unique.
  • It should be distinctive.
  • It should be uniform and stable.
  • The plant variety should be novel, which means they should not have been sold or made available to the public before the filing of the application.

Is it Essential to Patent a Plant?

Protecting the intellectual property rights of plant breeders, stimulating innovation, and encouraging investment in the plant breeding sector all depend on plant patenting. Plant patents are essential for fostering innovation and giving plant breeds a way to recoup their investments, despite some claims to the contrary. Some claim that they may restrict access to plant genetic resources and impede agricultural development.

What Is Included Under Plant Patents?

The following are the elements that can be included:

  1. Asexually Reproduced Plants – These type of patents can only be granted to asexually reproduced plants. This means that the plant must be propagated by a method other than using seeds, such as by grafting, budding, or rooting.
  2. New Varieties – To be eligible for patenting a plant, the plant variety must be new, meaning that it has yet to be sold or otherwise distributed before filing the patent application.
  3. Distinctive Varieties – The plant variety must also be distinct from other known varieties of the same species. This means that it must have characteristics that distinguish it from other plants, such as unique physical traits or properties.
  4. Uniform Varieties – The plant variety must be uniform, meaning that all plants of the variety should have consistent characteristics and traits.
  5. Stable Varieties – The plant variety must be stable, meaning that the characteristics and traits of the plant should remain consistent through successive generations of asexually reproduced plants.

Benefits of Plant Patent

Plant breeders and the plant breeding industry as a whole can gain from filing a patent for a plant in India in a number of ways. The following are some essential advantages of submitting a plant patent in India:

  1. Exclusive Rights: The exclusive rights that a plant patent grants the plant breeder are one of the main advantages of filing one. The patented plant can only be produced, sold, and distributed by the breeder. This guarantees that the breeder retains ownership over the commercial use of their plant and that others are prohibited from doing so without their permission. Without them, others can exploit the plant for commercial purposes, possibly undermining the breeder’s profits and discouraging further investment in plant breeding. Exclusive rights can be a crucial source of income for breeders.
  2. Protection from Unauthorized Use and Infringement: Plant patents offer protection from unauthorized use and infringement, making sure that others cannot exploit the breeder’s hard work, passes off a similar plant as the original, or utilizes the plant for profit without the breeder’s permission. Breeders can protect their intellectual property rights and make sure they are recognized and paid for their labour by acquiring a patent.
  3. Licensing and Royalty Income: The right to utilize a plant commercially can be granted by patent owners to third parties in exchange for a fee or royalty. Breeders can benefit significantly from this since it enables them to profit from their labour without having to sell or distribute the plant themselves. Moreover, licensing fosters the creation of novel and improved plant types and knowledge dissemination.
  4. Encouraging Innovations and Investments in the Plant Breeding Industry: Plant patents provide a legal framework that protects breeders’ intellectual property rights, which promotes innovation and investment in the plant breeding industry. Breeders may invest with confidence in R&D because of this protection; they are aware that they will own the sole rights to their discoveries. A further incentive for people to participate in the sector is the opportunity to get patents, which guarantees the protection of their capital.
  5. National and International Protection: Plant patents give breeders and their work national and international recognition, which can be crucial for building their profile and credibility in the field. Breeders’ chances of making money can increase by using patents to gain access to new markets and reach a wider audience.

Challenges and Limitations in Plant Patents

Plant breeders and farmers may be deterred from pursuing plant patenting in India due to a number of difficulties and restrictions. Meeting the requirements for plant patent eligibility is one of the major obstacles. To be eligible for a patent, a plant must be brand-new, distinct, consistent, and stable. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to demonstrate the novelty and uniqueness of the plant, mainly if it is a hybrid of two or more well-known species. Although the climate and growth conditions can alter the plant’s traits and qualities, it can also be challenging to ensure the uniformity and stability of the plant.

Another issue is that farmers and breeders aren’t well-informed about and educated on plant patents. Many people may not prioritize getting a patent for their plants because they are unfamiliar with the procedure and advantages of plant patents.

Another difficulty is the lack of resources and knowledge needed to enforce plant patents. In India, plant patents must be enforced by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA); however, they are subject to resource limitations and may lack the requisite knowledge. Patent infringement may emerge from this lack of enforcement, which can be challenging to stop.

The patenting process can also be costly and time-consuming. The process of processing a patent application might take several years and involves substantial documentation. Breeders and farmers with limited means may be deterred from pursuing a patent since the fees involved with filing one can be high.


In order to protect the rights of plant breeders and foster innovations in the plant breed industry, it is essential to find a plant patent in India. The PPV & FR Act[1] offers breeders a variety of advantages, including exclusivity of rights, protection against infringement, licensing opportunities and encouragement of innovation and investment. It also establishes a legal framework for the registration and protection of plant varieties. Plant patenting has the potential to contribute significantly to the growth and development of agriculture in India with the continuous support and development of the plant breeding industry.

Also Read:
Patent In India: Registration And Filing Process

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