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Intellectual Property

South Africa

South Africa Plant Breeders’ Rights

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Plant breeders have intellectual property rights for new plant varieties. Breeders of new plant varieties are granted plant breeders’ rights for protection against exploitation without their permission. If you breed a plant variety and would like to obtain financial reward for your efforts, you must register that variety with the Registrar for Plant Breeders’ Rights. Once you have registered a plant variety, it becomes your intellectual property. Any individual breeder or breeding institution may apply for a plant breeding right. Foreign breeders can only apply through an agent residing in South Africa. A Plant variety is considered new if the propagating material (seed or cutting from a plant) of a variety has not been sold in South Africa for longer than 1 year and the propagating material of a variety of a tree or of a vine has not been commercialised in another for more than 6 years, or in the case of any other plant for more than 4 years. Plant breeding has only granted rights for kinds of plant that are declared in terms of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 1976 (Act 15 of 1976). These are listed in Table 1  of the Regulations.

New Plant Varieties

To be granted plant breeders’ rights, plant varieties must be new, distinct, uniform, stable and have an acceptable denomination. A variety is considered:

  • NEW if the propagating material
    • of a variety has not been sold in South Africa for longer than one year.
    • of a variety of a tree or of a vine has not been commercialised in another country for more than six years, or in the case of any other plant for more than four years.
  • DISTINCT if it is clearly distinguishable from any other variety of the same species.
  • STABLE if the plants of the particular variety still look like the original plants after repeated cultivation.
  • UNIFORM if the plants of a variety look similar and are sufficiently uniform in relevant characteristics.

Plant Breeders’ Rights Duration

Once your variety is approved, you will be issued with a plant breeding right certificate that is valid for:
– 25 years for vines and trees, calculated from the date on which a certificate of registration is issued.
– 20 years for all annual varieties, calculated from the date on which a certificate of registration is issued.

As the holder of a plant breeders’ right, you must protect your interests and ensure that the variety is not exploited illegally by any unauthorised person. You may apply to the Registrar of Plant Breeders’ Rights for provisional protection of a variety until all tests are completed and you are granted plant breeders’ rights. Provisional protection is recommended for crops where tests take more than one year to complete.

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