The novel pandemic presented challenges to the plant industry in terms of trade involving wildlife and plants. Therefore, it has become imperative to keep a close eye on the rules and regulations related to plant varieties and the related concepts. The use and importance of the plants and plant products have also changed with time due to the pandemic and thus, a special focus on the laws and regulations regarding plant varieties is necessary. In cases of advanced agriculture, the focus is indispensable because the field depends on the use of new plant varieties for the development purposes.
In fact, the countries in the Middle East have been very active in providing plant varieties protection. The protection includes ensuring registration ad enforcement within the territories of the country for the interested owners and applicants.
Plant Variety Protection, also called Breeder's Rights, refers to the intellectual rights given to plant breeders. The rights cover the protection of new plant varieties in relation to the use of the protected plant varieties.
To clarify, plant breeding is the process of creating genetic variations of plants that perpetuate desirable traits in a way that can be reproduced. As such, breeders can obtain patents, trademarks, and industrial designs that establish their ownership over legally approved new plant varieties. In this way, intellectual property laws encourage the breeding and discovery of new plant varieties.
Laws regulating the Plant Varieties in the UAE
The background of the country provides that the United Arab Emirates has been the member of the World Trade Organization and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) since April 1996 and then, ratified conventions and instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992 and the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 2001.
Under the said agreements and instruments, the UAE is obliged to enact the regulations within the territory. In accordance with this obligation, the UAE enacted the law in 2009 on the Protection of Plant varieties which is in accordance with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. It must also be noted that the UAE is not the member of the Convention. The 2009 law enacted for regulation of plant varieties in the country ensured that there is requisite protection provided to the breeders through a sui generis system. The regulation also provides that the Director of Health and Agricultural Development shall be the Registrar. Apart from these provisions, the act also provides an explicit list of plant varieties to which the act shall be applicable. Some of the plant varieties are: Maize, Bread Wheat, Strawberry, Rhodes Grass, Buffel Grass etc. Apart from the already existing varieties, in 2018, the Ministry issued a notification including more plant varieties. Some additional types of plant varieties have to be added every ten years after the year of enforcement. Hence, according to the regulations, new varieties shall be added in 2022. Until 2022, a petition has to be filed with the appropriate authority in order to add the new varieties with the discretion of the Ministry.
Requisites for registrability of Plant varieties
- New: A variety shall be new and novel and eligible for the exclusive protection if the breeding or collection material has not yet been sold or transferred to the third parties in any manner, whether with or without any approval.
- Unique: A particular variety shall be distinct and unique if there is no known variety already existing at the time of the application for registration.
- Uniform: The variety shall be homogeneous in case the basic traits are met. One of the traits is the method of production.
- Stability: The variety shall be protected in case after certain years of production, the traits and description remain fixed.
- The variety must be harmless or contrary to any law.
After protection is granted, the validity shall be for a period of twenty years for any agricultural yield.
The owners of the registered plant varieties shall be entitled to exclusive rights to exploit the protected variety. The third parties are prohibited from any unauthorized use. The plant varieties' owners must be well-aware about the authorities concerned, training programs and the enforcement actions.
The committee has announced that it will reduce the fees for many of its services and waive the fees for another six starting from the month of May 2021, in line with the Cabinet Resolution No. 30 of 2021 on fees for the ministry's services, which was passed. Among the services with waived fees are the registration and examination of a new plant variety. The fees for these services were cancelled in order to encourage the creation of new varieties and their registration as well as examination. Moreover, the fees for the permit to use Organic logo for organic products (previously AED5,000) will be waived as well to promote the organic and traditional agriculture and to encourage the use of organic inputs in local agricultural production.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.