CIOPORA, the International Association of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Varieties, will open discussions on an International Licensing Platform for Ornamentals on December 3 in Venlo/Baarlo, The Netherlands. The need for the discussion comes on the heels of controversial decisions of the European Patent Office (EPO), which accelerated the debate on the patentability of biological material, natural traits, plants and even plant varieties.

Controversy and Concerns in the Patent Discussion 

The patentability of biological material has been an issue across many industries for years, but the topic was brought to the forefront for ornamental horticulturalists when, in March 2015, the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO ruled that plants developed through traditional breeding processes may be patented.

While only few Patents in the ornamental industry exist today, the EPO ruling could change this, thereby escalating the debate among horticulturalists. Proponents of Patents say that they support innovation by ensuring breeders are rightfully compensated for their work. Opponents are concerned that Patents will hamper innovation by blocking access to the protected material as well as the commercialization of new varieties.  Even if a breeders’ exemption is written into the Patent laws allowing the free use of patented biological material for further breeding, the commercialization of a new variety containing said patented material would require a license from the Patent holder, putting breeders in a risky position.

Developing an ILP for Ornamentals

To remedy the concerns regarding Patents for ornamentals, some in the industry have started informally discussing the possibility of an International Licensing Platform (ILP) for Ornamentals.  Such a platform, which already exists for vegetables, could provide a way for breeders to obtain licenses for traits they need at a fair and reasonable cost.

CIOPORA will take the discussion to a more formal level during its Conference on ‘The Future of Patents and PBR in Horticulture’ on 3 December in Venlo/Baarlo, The Netherlands. During the event, CIOPORA will have experts speak about the ILP concept as well as open the discussion to any attendees who have questions or concerns on the issue. Additionally, CIOPORA has invited holders and applicants of Patents related to ornamentals to join, on the fringes of the Conference, the first internal discussion on a possible ILP for Ornamentals.

“The CIOPORA Conference on the future of patents and PBR in horticulture is the ideal platform for all players in the industry to politically debate about which kind of IP Protection breeders would like to see in the future,” said Dr. Edgar Krieger, Secretary General of CIOPORA.

Dr. Krieger said that the CIOPORA Conference would specifically address the following topics: access to protected material, breeders exemption and possible ways of licensing.

“The ILP Vegetable is a good example of an industry-driven solution in the area of Patents and may function as a blueprint for other industry sectors, too,” Dr. Krieger said.