A NEW business association that aims to improve global access to and use of plant breeding traits for vegetables has been launched.
The International Licensing Platform (ILP) for plant breeding innovations was given the green light last month.
Recent discussions about patents on plant breeding traits over the past years, especially in Europe, have found supporters declaring that they foster innovation, knowledge-sharing and continued investments in research and development.
Opponents argue such patents are unnecessary because of the intellectual property protection offered by plant breeders’ rights and that patents impede the work of breeders because they can no longer gain access to biological materials, or can do so only after a delay or at a high cost.
As the political and social debate continues, 11 companies, which comprise both listed companies and family businesses from Switzerland, Germany, Japan, France and the Netherlands, have worked together to establish the ILP with an aim to provide plant breeders around the world with faster, more efficient and cost effective, guaranteed access to plant breeding traits that are currently covered by patent claims by ILP member companies.
The ILP provides a straightforward, easy way for vegetable breeders to license the traits they need at a fair and reasonable cost so they can bring new products to the market that meet demands from growers and consumers.
The members of the ILP will make all of their patents related to vegetable breeding traits accessible to their fellow members under the conditions of the ILP.
The ILP’s licensing system is simple and transparent. If a member wants to take a licence to use a fellow member’s patented invention, the two parties begin bilateral negotiations.
If no agreement is reached within three months, the case is put to arbitration by independent experts.
The innovative aspect of the system is the method of arbitration.
It uses a baseball arbitration model, whereby both parties submit their licence fee proposal to the independent arbitrators, who then choose the most reasonable proposal.
This forces both parties to adopt reasonable positions from the outset, because an unreasonable position will be rejected in favour of a more reasonable competing proposal.
Once a license fee is set by the arbitrators, this fee is communicated to all other parties to increase transparency.
Membership is open to all interested parties, regardless of whether they own patents or not.
According to horticulture news site Greenhouse Canada, the participating companies include Agrisemen, Bayer, Bejo, Enza, Holland-Select, Limagrain Vegetable Seeds, Limgroup, Pop Vriend, Rijk Zwaan, Syngenta and Takii.
Seminis, a seed arm of Monsanto, has not joined the association as it is pursuing its own new licensing program.
Seminis chief technology officer Marlin Edwards said in an article on the Monsanto Blog website, that it was the company’s goal to provide easy access to patented native traits and other technologies, for a reasonable royalty; thus allowing plant breeders, universities, public research institutions and companies with access to these innovations so that they can develop new vegetable varieties.
“While we applaud a new initiative (ILP), Monsanto and its vegetable seeds business is currently not a member,” Mr Edwards said.
“We believe both the ILP and our new licensing program enable a technology exchange that will foster agricultural collaboration and innovation thereby increasing the variety and quality of vegetable seed products available to growers.”