- Animal and Plant Health Agency
- Part of:
- Guides and forms for plant varieties and seeds applications and Crops and horticulture
- 7 September 2012
- Last updated:
- 9 October 2017, see all updates
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.
Read the guidance if you want to:
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)
Get a consent for genetically modified plants
You must get at least one of the following consents:
- marketing consent for food and animal feed, contact the food standards agency on 020 7276 8829 or email@example.com
- marketing consent for things that aren’t food or animal feed, contact Defra on 020 7238 2051 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- consent to do research trials, contact Defra on 020 7238 2051 or email@example.com
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 0208 026 5993 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
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 (PDF, 242KB, 3 pages) 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 01904 455 395.
Then send your completed RAS form to ssd.financeAR@defra.gsi.gov.uk
Pay by cheque
Send your cheque, payable to ‘the Animal and Plant Health Agency’, to:
Shared Services Connected Ltd
Monks Cross Drive
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.
- 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:
- the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (England and Wales)
- Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (Scotland)
- the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (Northern Ireland)
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.
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
Tel: +44 (0) 208 026 5993 Fax: +44 (0) 208 415 2504
Published: 7 September 2012
Updated: 9 October 2017
- Updated address for pay by cheque
- Reviewed and redrafted in line with GOV.UK style and Defra guidance review
- Removed the association with Natural England as it is not part of their remit.
- First published.