Towards the end of May 2021 the Plant Variety Rights Bill was introduced to Parliament and had its first reading. This has been a long journey following years of consultation with the public and industry groups. It modernizes the PVR regime and implements the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi (by providing some protection for kaitiaki relationships with taonga species) and to give effect to UPOV 1991.
The Bill has been referred to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee for consideration and submissions on the Bill are now open until 1 July 2021.
The PVR Bill contains a number of key changes from the current Plant Variety Rights Act 1987, including the following:
- Essentially Derived Varieties are now included in the Bill, meaning that where a new variety is predominantly derived from an initial variety and retains the essential characteristics of that initial variety, the legislation now provides some recognition for the initial variety in certain circumstances.
- There are broader provisions around what exclusive rights the holder of a protected plant variety obtains, including placing restrictions on production or reproduction, conditioning for the purpose of propagation, selling or offering for sale or other marketing, importing or exporting, or stocking for the purposing of undertaking any other restricted activity, all in relation to propagating material of the protected variety.
- The requirement of any new variety being ‘distinct’ to be eligible for protection has been enhanced by defining it as meaning it is ‘clearly distinguishable from any other plant variety whose existence is a matter of common knowledge at the application date’. This is higher than the current standard of simply ‘distinguishable’.
- There are provisions around a process for consultation with kaitiaki for indigenous plant species and non-indigenous plant species of significance. There is a range of requirements for species that fall into these categories, and a Maori Plant Varieties Committee is set up to assist with consideration and advice in relation to such varieties.
- A woody plant obtains protection for 25 years from the date of grant, up from 23 years currently.
- Growing trials are required for all applications, and the type required is to be directed by the Commissioner.
- Any appeal of a decision under the new legislation will go to the High Court, rather than the District Court.
From here the Government is looking to consult on Regulations to support the Bill, including a review of PVR fees.
There are a number of key and important changes in the new Bill, so if you are an industry body or organization potentially affected by these changes, it is important to make a submission on the Bill to the select committee.