Plant Variety Protection Act (1970)
Plant Variety Protection Act (1970)
Mark D. Janis
The Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) (P.L. 91-577, 84 Stat. 1542) provides intellectual property protection for seed-grown plants. "Intellectual property" refers to patents, copyrights, and other types of rights in intangibles. For example, intellectual property rights might protect the innovative concept that makes a computer work or the creative expression in a book or song. Plant variety protection (PVP) is generally weaker than patent protection, and PVP certificates are granted by the PVP Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
In the early twentieth century, plant breeding became recognized as a "science," and plant breeders argued that plants should be recognized as patentable inventions. In 1930 Congress passed a Plant Patent Act, but it only awarded patent protection to plants that were reproduced asexually—that is, by cuttings. As a practical matter, plant patents benefited nursery operators who propagated fruit trees, ornamentals, and roses primarily through cuttings, but did not benefit breeders who propagated new crop varieties (such as grain crops or cotton) through seed.
In the 1960s several European countries agreed to incorporate "variety" protection, a new type of intellectual property protection for plants, into their national laws, under a treaty known as the UPOV Treaty. The United States did not immediately sign the treaty, but did adopt variety protection, passing the PVPA in 1970.
Any seed-grown plant variety is potentially eligible for PVPA protection if the breeder files a proper application with the PVP Office and if the variety meets all of the prerequisites for protection. There are four major prerequisites: the variety must be new, distinct, uniform, and stable. "New" means that the variety has either not been commercialized at all before the PVP application filing date, or has been commercialized only within a specified time before the filing date and no earlier. "Distinct" means that the variety is clearly distinguishable from other known varieties. "Uniform" and "stable" mean that the variety's characteristics are predictable when the variety is reproduced.
If the PVP Office decides that an application meets all of the prerequisites, it issues a PVP certificate, which remains in force for twenty years for most varieties. The owner of a PVP certificate has the right to prevent others in the United States from reproducing the protected variety without authorization. However, there are many limitations on this general right. For example, reproducing a PVP-protected variety for noncommercial purposes or for bona fide plant breeding research is not prohibited. Another important limitation, the "saved seed" exemption, allows farmers who grow PVP-protected varieties to save some of the resulting seed to produce a subsequent crop for use on the farm, but does not allow the farmer to sell the saved seed to others for crop production.
The PVP Office has issued PVP certificates for many crop varieties, although PVP certificate owners have initiated very few court actions. In 1994 Congress amended the PVPA to clarify the "saved seed" exemption and to provide that PVP rights extended not only to the protected variety but also to varieties "essentially derived from" the protected variety. In 2001 the Supreme Court determined that the general U.S. patent law applies to seed-grown plants, so plant breeders today can seek both patent protection and protection under the PVPA for seed-grown plants.
See also: Patent Acts.
Janis, Mark D., and Jay P. Kesan. Plant Variety Protection: Sound and Fury ... ? 39 Houston Law Review 727 (2002).
Plant Variety Protection Office. U.S. Department of Agriculture. <http://www.ams.usda.gov/science/PVPO/PVPindex.htm>.
"Plant Variety Protection Act (1970)." Major Acts of Congress. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/plant-variety-protection-act-1970
"Plant Variety Protection Act (1970)." Major Acts of Congress. . Retrieved December 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/plant-variety-protection-act-1970
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.