Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate
Supreme Court of India & Delhi High court
Partner: Vaish Associates Advocates
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Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court, Partner & Head of Intellectual Property Laws Division, Vaish Associates Advocates, India

Plant Varieties

India, having ratified the TRIPS and in order to give effect to it, have enacted the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer's Rights Act, 2001 (the "Plant Act") (based on the recommendations of the International Union for Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Geneva). The Plant Act provides for setting up of a Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority (the "Authority") that shall be responsible for promoting the development of new varieties of plants and protecting the plant varieties and rights of the farmers and breeders. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority has been established and is located at NASC Complex, DPS Marg, Opp. Todapur, New Delhi - 110 012, India.

The Plant Act contains elaborate provisions to safeguard the rights of Indian farmers in addition to plant breeder's rights and researcher's rights. Till now, the Government of India has notified 114 crops with their genera eligible for registration of varieties.

Procedure for Registration

A new variety shall be registered if it conforms to the criteria of novelty, distinctiveness, uniformity and stability. After an application is made for the registration of the Plant Variety, the Registrar examines the application to see if it fulfills the criteria for registration of a Plant Variety. On being satisfied, the Registrar accepts the application, resulting in publication in the Journal for public objections, if any. The Registrar registers the application if the application remains unopposed or the opposition is decided in favour of the Applicant.

Duration of Protection

The duration of protection of registered varieties is different for different crops, as given below:

  • For trees and vines - 18 years;
  • For other crops - 15 years
  • For extant varieties - 15 years from the date of notification of that variety.

Rights under the Plant Act

Under the Plant Act, the researcher has the liberty to conduct experiment with a registered variety, and the farmer has been given the exclusive right to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed or a variety protected under the Plant Act. However, the farmer is not allowed to sell the branded seed of a protected variety. Further, a certificate of registration for a variety issued under the Act shall confer an exclusive right on the breeder or his successor, agent or licensee to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the variety.

Infringement of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights

Any person, who produces, sells imports or exports any variety without the permission of the owner, infringes the rights of owner. Use of a denomination which is similar to a registered denomination and likely to confuse the general public also amounts to infringement. Infringement of any right under the Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights attracts both civil and criminal action. A criminal action under the Act entails punishment up to two years or a fine up to Rs 5,00,000 (approx. US$ 8000), or with both.

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