Plant breeders’ rights are exclusive rights comparable to patents and protect the intellectual property associated with plant breeding. Plant breeders’ rights therefore serve the plant breeding industry and breeding advancements in agriculture and horticulture. Anyone who breeds or discovers a new plant variety can apply for national plant breeders’ rights for all varieties of plants at the Federal Plant Variety Office under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act (SortG). Plant breeders’ rights can be obtained if a plant variety is new, distinct, uniform, stable and designated by a suitable denomination.
Plant breeders’ rights provide that only the owner or his/her legal successor has the right to market propagating material (plants, parts of plants, seed) of the protected variety, or to produce, import or store it therefor. The use of a protected variety to breed a new variety does not require authorisation from the rights holder, however plant breeders´ right has an effect if protected varieties are used for the production of hybrids. Since 1997, essentially derived varieties also fall under the scope of protection, i.e. varieties derived from a protected variety, while retaining the expression of the essential characteristics of the initial variety, apart from the differences arising from the derivation.
Testing for distinctness, uniformity and stability is based on the expression of the characteristics of the variety. As far as possible, only characteristics affected by environmental factors to a minimal extent are used for testing and the precise description of the variety. These are mainly morphological and phenological characteristics that show sufficient variation between the varieties of a plant species. It is not required for these characteristics to demonstrate any significant commercial value. The expression of the characteristics is assessed in growing trial in the open or in a greenhouse, or by means of additional laboratory tests. The relevant characteristics for individual plant species are set out in national and international guidelines. Plant breeders’ rights are granted for a period of 25 years, with rights for hops, potatoes, vines and tree species being granted for 30 years.