Producing and distributing food – guidance

Get plant breeders’ rights to your new variety

How to get plant breeders' rights and what protection it gives your plant varieties.

This guide tells you how to apply for intellectual property rights over your plant varieties in the UK.

These rights are known as plant breeders’ rights (PBR). You get them from the Plant Variety Rights Office (PVRO).

You can get cover across the European Union from the Community Plant Variety Office instead of getting cover in the UK.

If you get cover in the EU, you’ll need to suspend or surrender rights you already have in the UK for that particular variety.

Who can apply

You can apply for PBR if you’ve bred, discovered or developed a plant variety, or if you’ve been chosen by the breeder as their successor.

Who can’t apply

You can’t apply for rights of a plant you bred, discovered or developed for a company you’re employed by. Your employer can apply for the rights.

What you can get rights for

You can get rights for new plant varieties, including genetically modified varieties.

To get rights, your variety must be:

  • distinct – have different characteristics to other plants of the same species
  • uniform – all plants in the variety must share the same characteristics
  • stable – it remains unchanged after ‘repeated propagation’, eg reproduction from seeds, cuttings, bulbs or other plant parts

You can register your variety in the UK if you’ve already registered it in a different country. Your UK cover will be backdated to the start of the protection you got first.

What you can’t get rights for

A variety if it’s:

  • been sold or used for commercial use in the UK more than 1 year before you apply
  • been sold or used for commercial use in the EU more than 4 years before you apply (6 years for trees or vines)

You must get at least one of the following consents:

Include a copy of your consent with your application for PBR.

You must also tell the Plant Variety Rights Office if you’re applying for breeders’ rights for a genetically modified plant variety. Call 0300 060 0497 or contact the Plant Variety Rights Office by post.

How rights can protect your plant varieties

Your rights mean that nobody else, unless you give permission, can use your plant species for:

  • production or reproduction
  • selling or offering for sale
  • altering so it can be propagated
  • exporting or importing
  • keep stock of your plant species for any reason

Your rights last for 25 years (30 years for trees, vines or potato varieties).

You can give up your rights at any time and rights may be terminated if the variety no longer fulfills its criteria.

Name your variety

You must name your variety. The same name will usually be used in all member states of the EU if the variety is accepted.

Choose a name that:

  • isn’t already used by a variety of the same species
  • can’t be confused with the name of another variety or other goods
  • doesn’t cause problems with recognition or production
  • accurately represents the variety or its characteristics, eg the name must not suggest that a variety has particular attributes

You can use a trade mark or trade name when you sell seeds of the plant, but the name registered on the national list must be clearly shown on the packaging.

Apply for plant breeders’ rights

You can apply yourself, or you can get an agent to apply for you.

To use an agent, complete and send an ‘authorisation of agent’ form to Plant Variety Rights and Seeds Office (PVS).

All applications and documents must be in English or include an English translation.

Send your application

You need to send PVRO:

  • your application form
  • if you are not the breeder, an assignment of rights form signed by the breeder
  • a completed technical questionnaire for the correct species of the plant variety
  • a colour photograph showing plant features (only for ornamental species)
  • any authorisations you’ve got, eg marketing consent

Send by post or email

PVS will send you an email within 5 working days telling you if your application has been accepted.


Send payment for the administration fee and the remittance advice slip within 2 weeks of sending your application.

You will be invoiced for the costs of testing.

Read the costs for different varieties to calculate the total amount.

Complete one of the following forms:

Pay by credit card or bank transfer

Call Shared Services Connected Ltd to pay by credit card on 01905 763355.

Then send your completed RAS form to <>

Pay by cheque

Send your cheque, payable to ‘the Animal and Plant Health Agency’, to:

Shared Services Connected Ltd
Foss House
Kings Pool
1-2 Peasholme Green
YO41 1PX

After you’ve applied

Your PBR will be granted within 2 months if your variety has already been shown to be distinct, uniform and stable.

Get your seed and plant materials tested

APHA will ask you to send the seed or plant material for testing if your variety hasn’t already been tested for national listing. They’ll tell you how much material to send and when.

Testing takes:

  • 1 year for ornamentals
  • 3 years for trees
  • 4 years for herbage varieties
  • 2 years for other species

Extra tests of parental species might be needed if you’re registering hybrid varieties.

The method of testing is approved by PVS, and is done by:

PVS will send you copies of the results of your tests.

Get a published decision

The PVS will then publish the proposed decision on whether to accept or refuse the variety in its monthly Gazette. All test results are then made available to anyone on request.

You’ll get breeders’ rights if:

  • the variety is distinct, uniform and stable
  • nobody has objected
  • no new evidence shows that the proposed decision is wrong

New listed varieties are published in the Gazette, together with the name of the person who owns the rights and any agents.

Change the name

You need to pay if you want to change a name after rights have been granted.

If you’re refused plant breeders’ rights

Object a refusal

You can object to a decision if you’ve been refused PBR. This is known as ‘making a representation’.

You must do this by email or by post within 14 days of the decision being published in the Gazette.

Appeal against a refusal

You’ll receive a letter from PVS if the original decision is not overturned.

You can then make an appeal to Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal. Write to the address given in the letter.

If you lose your rights documents

Contact PVRO to get a replacement copy of your Grant of Rights.

End your rights

You can end your rights at any time by contacting PVRO.

You can also give your rights to someone else. Fill in an assignment of rights form and send it to PVRO.

When you can be forced to give licences

For the first 2 years of you getting PBR, only you can licence other people to use your variety..

After 2 years, any person that applies for a licence from you can apply for a compulsory licence if:

  • they feel that you ‘unreasonably’ refused to grant the licence
  • you imposed ‘unreasonable’ terms on a granted licence

The applicant will need to contact PVRO and show:

  • a licence is necessary to ensure the variety is available to the public at a reasonable price, is widely distributed, or quality is maintained
  • the applicant can and wants to exploit the variety in a professional way

Take someone to court

You can take someone to court if you think they are using your plant varieties without your permission.

First, you need to ask them about the source of the suspected plant material. You should treat all information you receive as confidential.

If they don’t give you this information you can start a process in court known as ‘infringement proceedings’.

Contact the Plant Variety Rights Office

Contact the Plant Variety Rights Office at:

Plant Variety Rights Office
Animal and Plant Health Agency
Shaftesbury Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 300 060 0497 Fax: +44 (0) 300 060 2115