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Intellectual property protection in agriculture

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights

 Source: IE

 Context: The Delhi HC upheld an order by the Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA), revoking the intellectual property protection granted to PepsiCo India with respect to a potato variety developed by it.


What is the case about?

  • It pertains to FL 2027 – a potato variety with high dry matter and low sugar content (better suited for making chips) – grown by some 14,000 farmers in India via contract cultivation and buy-back at pre-fixed rates.
  • FL 2027 was developed in 1996 by a US breeder employed with a division of PepsiCo Inc – a manufacturer of potato chips sold under its Lay’s brand.
  • PepsiCo India was granted a certificate of registration (by PPVFRA) for FL 2027 for 6-years in 2016.
  • During this period nobody else could commercially produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export it without the breeder’s authorisation.


Revocation of registration:

  • PPVFRA revoked the registration for FL 2027 in 2021 and rejected PepsiCo India’s application for renewal of its registration, for lack of novelty.
  • PepsiCo challenged both orders before the Delhi HC. The court upheld the PPVFRA’s decision.
  • The HC has faulted PepsiCo for wrongly applying for registration of FL 2027 under the category of “new variety” and giving an incorrect date for its first commercialisation.


The Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001: 


Objectives of the Act:

  • To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders.
  • To encourage the development of new varieties of plants.
  • To recognise and protect the rights of farmers towards conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant varieties.
  • To accelerate agricultural development in the country, protect plant breeders’ rights; stimulate investment for R&D for the development of new plant varieties.
  • Facilitate the growth of the seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.


Need for the Act:

  • To bring Indian legislation in conformity with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978.
  • To implement TRIPs to support the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders, including resource-constrained farmers.


Rights under the Act:

  • Breeders’ Rights: Breeders will have exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the protected variety.
  • Researchers’ Rights: Researchers can use any of the registered varieties under the Act for conducting experiments or research.
  • Farmers’ Rights:
    • A farmer who has evolved or developed a new variety is entitled to registration and protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety;
    • Farmers’ variety can also be registered as an extant variety – satisfying only the criteria of distinctiveness, uniformity and stability, but not a novelty.


Implementation of the Act: To implement the provisions of the Act, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare established the PPVFRA in 2005.


 General functions of the Authority:

  • Registration of new plant varieties, essentially derived varieties (EDV), and extant varieties;
  • Developing DUS (Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability) test guidelines for new plant species;
  • Preservation of plant genetic resources of economic plants and their wild relatives;
  • Maintenance of the National Register of Plant Varieties;
  • Maintenance of National Gene Bank, etc.


Registration of varieties: A variety is eligible for registration if it essentially fulfils the criteria of Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS).


Insta Links:

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FR)


Prelims Links: (UPSC 2019)

Consider the following statements:

  1. According to the Indian Patents Act, a biological process to create a seed can be patented in India
  2. In India, there is no Intellectual Property Appellate Board
  3. Plant varieties are not eligible to be patented in India

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3


Ans: 3