In past contributions, we have reported on the controversy
over patent rights and plant breeding rights in The
Netherlands. There has been increasing discussion about patents
on plant breeding traits in recent years. Proponents of such
patents claim that they foster innovation, knowledge-sharing
and continued investments in research and development.
Opponents argue that such patents are unnecessary because of
the IP 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.
Having reviewed the arguments of all stakeholders, the Dutch
government has taken action by amending the Dutch Patent Law to
the effect that research for plant breeding is now exempted
from infringement (the so-called limited plant breeder's
However, the vegetable seed industry itself has also taken
steps by establishing a licensing platform, which was launched
in November 2014. The aim of this International Licensing
Platform (ILP) is to provide plant breeders around the world
with faster, more efficient, cost-effective and guaranteed
access to crucial plant breeding traits covered by patent
claims held by companies that are members of the ILP. At
present these are Agrisemen, Bayer, Bejo, Enza, Holland-Select,
Limagrain Vegetable Seeds, Limgroup, Pop Vriend, Rijk Zwaan,
Syngenta and Takii.
The ILP provides a straightforward and easy way for
vegetable breeders to obtain a licence for the traits they
need, at a fair and reasonable price, so they can bring new
products to the market that meet demands from growers and
consumers. ILP members have agreed that their patents on
vegetable breeding traits should be accessible to fellow
members under the conditions of the ILP. Membership is open to
all interested parties, patent owners and non-owners alike.
If a member is seeking 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 licence
fee is set by the arbitrators, this fee is communicated to all
other parties to increase transparency.
It is expected that both the initiatives from the legislator
and from the seed-breeding companies will help to bring an end
to the controversy between patent rights (holders) and plant
breeders' rights (holders).
Johan de Wittlaan 7
2517 JR The Hague
Tel: +31 70 416 67 11
Fax: +31 70 416 67 99