Guidance

Get plant breeders’ rights for your new variety

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

Intellectual property rights over plant varieties in the UK are known as plant breeders’ rights (PBR). The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) awards rights for the UK.

Adding a plant variety to the UK’s national lists lets you market them. It has a different application process that is separate to plant breeders’ rights. Read guidance on how to add a new plant variety to the national lists.

You can apply for plant breeders’ rights and national listing at the same time for agricultural and vegetable varieties. If you do, you’ll only have to pay for the cost of one application.

If you apply for plant breeders’ rights and national listing separately, you’ll have to pay the cost of 2 applications.

Read about farm saved seed and how to declare you use them.

Who can apply for PBR

You can apply for PBR if you’ve:

  • bred or developed a plant variety
  • been chosen by the breeder as their successor

You cannot apply for rights to a plant you have bred, discovered or developed for a company who employs you. Your employer must apply for the rights.

Check your variety is distinct, uniform and stable

After you apply for plant breeders’ rights, your plant variety must be tested to check if it’s a new variety. This is known as DUS (distinct, uniform and stable) testing.

What plant varieties you can get rights for

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

You can register your variety in the UK even if you’ve already registered it in another country. Your UK cover will be backdated to the start of the first protection you were granted.

You cannot get rights for a variety that has been sold or used for commercial use:

  • in the UK for more than 1 year before you apply
  • outside the UK for more than 4 years before you apply (6 years for trees and vines)

Priority dates

The date your PBR application is received is known as a priority date. It gives you rights over a plant variety from that date if you are granted PBR.

The date you submitted the application is known as the date of UK application.

After the priority date no one, without your authority, can:

  • produce or reproduce the plant variety
  • propagate the plant variety
  • offer for sale the plant variety
  • sell or market the plant variety
  • export the plant variety
  • import the plant variety
  • stock the plant variety

You can take someone to court if there is any infringement after the priority date.

Parallel applications in more than one country

A parallel application is a PBR application for the same plant variety accepted in another country. Your UK rights will start on the date (priority date) on which the parallel application was made, not the date you applied for UK PBR.

You can use an early priority date for your UK PBR application, if you have previously applied for PBR:

  • in an EU member state
  • to a member of the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)

You must have made your parallel application in the last 12 months.

You should add your parallel application documents to your UPOV PRISMA UK application. The documents must be certified as a true copy by the authority the application was made to.

If you have not included the documents in your UPOV PRISMA UK application you must, within 3 months of submitting your UK application, send a copy to APHA by email pvs.helpdesk@apha.gov.uk

You must include in the email:

  • your UPOV PRISMA UK application number
  • the species you are registering
  • your application for protection number (AFP) issued to you by APHA (if known)

If you do not meet the requirements, your rights to the early priority date of the parallel application, will be lost.

How PBR can protect your plant varieties

PBR means that nobody can, without your permission, use your plant species for:

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

Your rights last for:

  • 25 years for plants
  • 30 years for trees, vines and potato varieties

Apply for plant breeders’ rights

To get rights for your plant variety, you must follow these steps:

  1. Create your own breeders’ reference - this is a unique reference you must give to each new variety. (If you’ve already named your variety, that can be your breeders’ reference.)

  2. Get consent for genetically modified varieties.

When you have done this, you can then apply by following these steps:

  1. Apply online using UPOV PRISMA.

  2. Send your sample to be tested for DUS.

Name your variety

You must name your new variety. You cannot get plant breeders’ rights without an approved name.

Most plant breeders work in the UK and the EU. This means the same name is often used for registering and future marketing, if your variety name is accepted.

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

How to choose a name

Choose a name that:

  • is not already used by a variety of the same species
  • cannot be confused with the name of another variety or other goods
  • does not cause problems with recognition or production
  • accurately represents the variety or its characteristics

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

Submit your name proposal

You should send your naming proposal as soon as possible. Email it to pvs.helpdesk@apha.gov.uk and include your AFP number in the email with your proposed name. It can take up to 5 months to accept a proposal.

If you’ve not chosen a name when you submit your application, you can submit one by email during the application period.

Objections to a proposed name or proposed change of name

Anyone can object to the naming of a variety. This is known as ‘making a representation’.

Contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to make an objection within 3 months of the decision being published in the Seeds Gazette.

APHA will respond explaining the objections process and how you can pay the £30 fee to make an objection.

APHA will write to you and tell you if your objection is successful or not.

To apply for breeders’ rights for a genetically modified plant variety you must:

You will need to get consent from the relevant organisation. You should include a copy of your consent in your application for PBR.

Contact the Food Standards Agency.

Food Standards Agency
Telephone: 020 7276 8829
Email: helpline@foodstandards.gov.uk

Contact the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

Defra
Telephone: 020 7238 2051
Email: gm-regulation@defra.gov.uk

Start your application online

All applications for UK plant breeders’ rights must use the UPOV PRISMA online application process.

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

You will need to:

  1. Set up an account.

  2. Log in to your account.

  3. Complete and send your application on UPOV PRISMA.

  4. Pay the UPOV PRISMA service fee - you will need to pay this for each variety.

  5. Complete and upload an authorisation of agent form if you want to authorise an agent to apply on your behalf.

  6. Pay your fees to APHA.

When you’ve completed and submitted your application, you will get an email to confirm it has been received.

APHA will grant your PBR within 2 months if your variety has already been DUS tested.

Authorise an agent

If you want an agent to apply on your behalf you must complete the ‘authorisation of agent’ form.

Upload it to UPOV PRISMA using the attachment section.

If you, or your chosen agent are not based in the UK, you’ll need to appoint an agent who has a UK address. This can be anyone in the UK, including your distributor.

Application closing dates

You can apply for rights at any time but there are closing dates for the receipt of plant material.

To be part of a specific year’s test and trials, apply before the national listing closing dates.

Spring sown agricultural crops

Species Closing date for receipt of sample
Spring wheat 23 October
Annual meadowgrass, wood meadowgrass, smooth-stalked meadowgrass and rough-stalked meadowgrass 15 December
Brown top, red top, creeping bent and velvet bent 15 January the year after application
Common vetch 29 November
Spring lupin, spring rye, spring spelt wheat and spring triticale 10 January the following year after application
Spring barley and spring oats 15 January the following year after application
Spring field pea and spring field bean 31 January the following year after application
Red clover, alsike clover, meadow fescue, tall oatgrass, birdsfoot trefoil, cocksfoot, lucerne, sainfoin, tall fescue, red fescue (chewings fescue), Alaska brome grass, rescue grass, black medick, Hungarian vetch, hairy vetch, timothy and small timothy When requested
Spring linseed, spring flax, spring oil seed rape 15 December
Ryegrass, white clover, festulolium 5 February
Sunflower 1 February
Sunflower 1 February
Spring forage rape, spring turnip rape, fodder beet (mangels), fodder kale, swede, fodder radish 15 February
Mustard, potatoes, hemp 15 January the following year after application
Maize 15 February
Soya beans 15 January

Autumn sown agricultural crops

Species Closing date for receipt of sample
Winter wheat, winter oats and winter lupin 15 September
Winter field beans 1 October
Winter oilseed rape (GM only) 10 August
Winter turnip rape 31 July
Winter field peas 1 October
Winter forage rape and winter oilseed rape (non-GM) 10 August
Winter linseed 1 September
Winter rye, winter spelt wheat and winter triticale 1 September
Winter barley 8 September

Vegetable varieties

Species Closing date for receipt of sample
Beetroot 28 February
Broad bean 15 February
Broccoli, calabrese, sprouting broccoli 15 March
Brussels sprout 28 February
Cabbage All year round
Carrot 31 March
Cauliflower All year round
Celeriac 15 March
Celery 31 March
Chinese cabbage All year round
Cucumber All year round
Endive All year round
French bean All year round
Gourds All year round
Kale group, including tronchuda, palm kale and vegetable napus kales 31 January
Kohlrabi All year round
Leaf beet 28 February
Leek (vegetatively propagated) 15 April the following year after application
Leek (seed propagated) 31 January the following year after application
Lettuce All year round
Marrow All year round
Melons All year round
Onions (over wintered) 15 July
Onions (spring sown) 31 January the following year after application
Parsley All year round
Parsnip 31 January
Pea 15 February
Radish 31 March
Radish (black) 31 March
Runner bean 31 January the following year after application
Shallot (seed propagated) 28 February
Shallot (vegetatively propagated) 31 March
Spinach All year round
Sweet corn All year round
Tomatoes All year round
Turnip 31 January the following year after application
Watercress (seed and vegetatively propagated) 28 February

Ornamental crops

These deadlines apply to vegetatively propagated varieties except where advised in the table.

These deadlines assume all material is container grown, except for chrysanthemums, which you must supply as a cutting.

Species or group Final closing date for applications Submission period for delivery of material
Chrysanthemums, All Year Round Varieties (AYR) Crop 1 14 August 11 to 15 January
Chrysanthemums, All Year Round Varieties (AYR) Crop 3 17 February 5 to 9 July
Chrysanthemums, Natural Season varieties, including garden varieties 1 December 12 to 16 April
Dahlias 1 December 10 to 14 May
Delphiniums, vegetatively propagated 1 December 22 to 26 February and 15 to 26 March, depending on type
Delphiniums, seed propagated 1 December 25 to 29 January
Herbaceous perennials, hardy varieties 1 December 15 to 26 March (different dates apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring, contact APHA to ask about specific dates.)
Herbaceous perennials, tender varieties and basket or pot plants 1 December 26 to 30 April
Narcissus 31 May 23 to 27 August
Roses 30 September 1 to 15 November
Seed propagated ornamentals 1 December 20 to 24 January (different dates apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring contact APHA to ask about specific dates.)
Trees, shrubs and woody climbers 1 December 15 to 26 March (different dates apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring contact APHA to ask about specific dates.)

Application fees

Read the application costs for different varieties to calculate the total amount you’ll need to pay.

If you need to add your variety to the national listing too, you can apply for both at the same time for the price of one administration fee.

If you apply to add your variety to the national list separately, you’ll have to pay a separate administration fee.

Get a published decision

APHA will publish the decision on whether to accept or refuse the variety in its monthly Seeds 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 with the name of the person who owns the rights and any agents.

Object a PBR decision

You can object to a proposed decision if plant breeders rights are granted or refused. This is known as ‘making a representation’.

You must make your representation to APHA by email or by post within 14 days of the decision being published in the Seeds Gazette.

Your representation must include the:

  • variety name
  • species
  • AFP number as advertised in the gazette

APHA will contact you by email or post when a decision has been made. The results will be published in the Seeds Gazette.

Plant breeders rights in the EU and the UK

Varieties with EU rights granted before 31 December 2020 now have corresponding UK rights.

Read the list of plant varieties that have continued protection in the UK.

For new varieties, you need to apply separately in the UK and the EU. You must apply to the:

  • Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for UK protection
  • Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) for EU protection

UK businesses can still hold and apply for EU plant variety rights after 1 January 2021. You’ll need an address or procedural representative in the EU.

In EU member states, there is no change to:

  • how you apply for protection
  • the level of protection you receive

How to change the details of your plant variety

Contact pvs.helpdesk@apha.gov.uk to change any of your plant variety details.

Include your AFP number in any correspondence if your variety is listed in the special edition.

Include your EU grant number in your correspondence if your variety has transferred from EU PBR to UK PBR.

Request replacement documents

Contact APHA to get a replacement copy of your Grant of Rights, if you lose your documentation.

When you can be forced to give licences

For 2 years after you get your PBR, only you can licence other people to use your variety.

After 2 years, any person 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 person applying for a compulsory licence must contact APHA and show that:

  • a licence is necessary to make sure 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.

Ask them about the source of the suspected plant material before you take legal action. You should treat all information you receive as confidential.

If they do not give you this information you can start infringement proceedings in court.

End your rights

Contact APHA to end your rights. You can do this at any time.

You can also give your rights to someone else. To do this follow these steps:

  1. Fill in an assignment of rights form.

  2. Send it to APHA.

Contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency

You can contact the Plant Variety Rights team by email or post.

Email: pvs.helpdesk@apha.gov.uk

Plant Variety Rights Office
Animal and Plant Health Agency
Eastbrook
Shaftesbury Road
Cambridge
CB2 8DR
United Kingdom

If you cannot reach the Plant Variety Rights team

You can call the Defra Rural Services Helpline for England.

Defra Rural Services Helpline (England)
Telephone: 03000 200 301

If you have questions about your application or grants

For queries regarding:

  • new plant breeders rights applications
  • ongoing plant breeders rights applications
  • existing plant breeders rights grants
  • general plant breeders rights enquiries

E-mail: pvs.helpdesk@apha.gov.uk

You should include the:

  • species name in the subject title
  • AFP number of the variety if you have one

For Integrated VCU trials, contact Jeremy Widdowson.

Jeremy Widdowson
BSPB House
114 Lancaster Way
CB6 3NX

Telephone: 013 5365 3846
Email: jeremy.widdowson@bspb.co.uk

For the delivery of plant material for ornamental crops, contact Tara Sheldrake.

Tara Sheldrake
NIAB
Park Farm
CB24 9NZ

Published 7 September 2012
Last updated 10 August 2022 + show all updates
  1. Edited Object a PBR decision - added more information on how to make a representation.

  2. Added new sections about priority dates (the date your PBR application is received) and making parallel applications in more than one country.

  3. The closing date for the receipt of samples for spring linseed, spring flax and spring oilseed rape has been changed to 15 December.

  4. Removed ‘discovered’ from ‘who can apply’ section. You can only apply for plant breeders’ rights if you’ve bred or developed a plant variety, or if you’ve been chosen by the breeder as their successor.

  5. Contact details updated

  6. New section - Plant varieties with registered rights in the EU before 1 January 2021 have been given a corresponding UK right.

  7. Updates to email address for applications, update to fees, new information on applying through UPOV PRISMA, new table of closing dates and submission periods for ornamental crops.

  8. Updated the costs for different varieties document in the fees section.

  9. New information about the monthly gazette and seeds edition, tables of different plant varieties and closing dates for applications.

  10. Updated the fees pay by credit card telephone number.

  11. Added information about how to apply online

  12. National Listing and Plant Breeders Rights fees updated.

  13. Fees document updated

  14. Updated address for pay by cheque

  15. Reviewed and redrafted in line with GOV.UK style and Defra guidance review

  16. Removed the association with Natural England as it is not part of their remit.

  17. First published.