Guidance

Get plant breeders’ rights for 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 can get them from the Plant Variety Rights Office (PVRO) for the UK.

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.

An agent can apply to be appointed to manage the application process if they are authorised.

They’ll need to complete an authorisation of agent form.

If the applicant or agent applying isn’t based in the UK, you will need to appoint an authorised UK agent.

Upload this form using the attachment section in UPOV PRISMA when applying.

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.

Plant variety rights in the EU

There is no change in protection in the 27 EU Member States.

Varieties with EU rights granted before 31 December 2020 will get a corresponding UK right from 1 January 2021, when EU rights will no longer apply in the UK.

If you’ve already applied for EU rights, but these were not granted before 1 January 2021, you must apply to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for protection in the UK using the UPOV PRISMA online application process.

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

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

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’, for example 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

You can’t get the rights for a variety if it’s been sold or used for commercial use:

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

The exception is for varieties with an undecided EU application on 31 December 2020 and a subsequent UK PBR application made within 6 months. In this case, novelty is retained if the first commercialisation in the EU or UK was no more than 1 year before the date of application for EU rights (or the date of priority, if earlier).

Plant variety rights in the UK

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

These plant varieties will have continued protection in the UK.

Change of details

If you want to change any details of your plant variety, contact pvs.helpdesk@apha.gov.uk with your request and EU grant number.

The UK will continue to use the EU grant number for any correspondence.

The UK does not currently have an annual charge for the maintenance of UK plant breeders’ rights.

Rights holders should regularly review this guide for future management changes to PBR in the UK.

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 020 8026 5993 or contact the Plant Variety Rights Office by post.

How rights can protect your plant varieties

Your rights mean that nobody else without your 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 for plants or 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 fulfils its criteria.

Name your variety

You must name your variety. The same name will usually be used in the UK and all EU member states 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, for example 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.

Objections to a proposed name or proposed change of name.

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

Contact APHA to make an objection within 3 months of the decision being published in the gazette. APHA will respond explaining the objections process and how you can pay the £30 fee to make an objection.

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

Apply for plant breeders’ rights

All applications for UK Plant Breeders Rights must use the UPOV PRISMA online application process.

Apply online

Apply using UPOV PRISMA, an online tool which helps you make applications with all participating Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Offices.

To apply online you will need to:

Application closing dates

You can apply for PBR anytime. If you want to be included in a specific year’s test and trials, the application closing dates for agricultural and vegetable crops are the same as the closing dates for National Listing.

There are closing dates for the receipt of plant material. Anything received later will not be tested or trialled in that year.

Ornamental PBR applications have closing dates.

Spring sown agricultural crops

Species Closing date for receipt of plant material
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 following 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 7 January the following year after application
Ryegrass, White Clover, Festulolium 5 February
Sunflower 1 February
Sugar Beet 1 February
Spring Forage Rape, Spring Turnip Rape, Fodder Beet (Mangels), Fodder Kale, Swede, Fodder Radish 15 February
Spring Oilseed Rape, Mustard, Potatoes, Hemp 15 December
Maize 15 February
Soya Beans 15 January

Autumn sown agricultural crops

Species Closing date for receipt of plant material
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

The UK doesn’t have testing capacity for all the vegetable varieties listed. For the varieties that the UK does not have DUS testing capability for the UK will either purchase the Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) report or will entrust another examination office to carry out the DUS testing on behalf of the UK.

Applications for vegetable varieties that the UK does not have DUS testing capability for can be received all year round. However the closing date for receipt of plant material is at the discretion of the entrusted examination office.

Vegetable varieties

Species Closing date for receipt of plant material
Beetroot 28 February
Broad bean 15 February
Broccoli 15 March
Calabrese 15 March
Brussels sprout 28 February
Cabbage Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Carrot 31 March
Cauliflower Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Celeriac 15 March
Celery 28 February
Chinese cabbage Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Cucumber Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Endive Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
French bean Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Gourds Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Kohlrabi Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
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 Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Marrow Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Melons Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Onions (over wintered) 15 July
Onions (spring sown) 31 January the following year after application
Parsley Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Pea 15 February
Radish 31 March
Runner bean 31 January the following year after application
Shallot (seed propagated) 28 February
Shallot (vegetatively propagated) 31 March
Spinach Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Sweet corn Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Tomatoes Purchase of report or date of plant material at the discretion of the entrusted office
Turnip 31 January the following year after application
Watercress (seed and vegetatively propagated) 31 March

Ornamental crops

This table sets out the closing dates for the main ornamental crops tested at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) for the UK, Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) and under bilateral agreements.

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 will apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring.)
Herbaceous perennials, tender varieties and basket/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 will apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring.)
Trees, shrubs and woody climbers 1 December 15 to 26 March (Different dates will apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring.)

Deadlines for ornamentals

Requesting authorities must forward their paperwork to the test centre within 10 working days of the applications.

The deadlines apply to vegetatively propagated varieties except where specifically indicated in the table. They assume all material is container grown except for chrysanthemums which must be supplied in the form of cuttings.

No plant material should be sent until specifically requested.

Contacts

This table shows who you should contact for different plant and vegetable varieties.

Varieties Contact Name Telephone Email
Team Manager for UK National Listing and UK Plant Breeders` Rights Administration Rob Warlow 020 8026 5930 rob.warlow@apha.gov.uk
Wheat, Oats, Barley, Triticale, Rye, Spelt wheat, Sugar beet, Karen Lucas-Greef 020 8026 5844 karen.lucas-greef@apha.gov.uk
Herbage, Potatoes, Oilseed rape, Forage rape, Forage kale, Turnip rape, Swede, Agricultural and Vegetable Conservation varieties, Amateur vegetables Isabel Chedd 020 8720 0231 isabel.chedd@apha.gov.uk
Vegetables, Ornamentals, Fruit Caroline Power 020 8720 2795 caroline.power@apha.gov.uk
Maize, Field Pea, Field Bean, Soya Bean, Sunflower, Linseed, Ornamentals - Bilateral agreement applications only Beata Potomska 020 8026 7598 beata.potomska@apha.gov.uk
Integrated VCU trials Jeremy Widdowson, BSPB, BSPB House 114 Lancaster Way Business Park Ely CB6 3NX 01353 653 202 jeremy.widdowson@bspb.co.uk
Address for delivery of plant material for Ornamental Crops Tara Sheldrake, NIAB, Park Farm, Villa Road, Impington, Cambridge, CB24 9NZ    

Fees

The UPOV PRISMA service fee is 90 Swiss francs (CHF), which must be paid directly to UPOV PRISMA when you apply.

APHA will issue invoices for the administration fee for UK Plant Breeders’ Rights applications.

The invoice will be issued following publication of the application in the Seeds Gazette. In the majority of cases this will be in the month following APHA receiving your application. For example, an application received by APHA during January will be invoiced in late February.

You’ll be invoiced for the costs of testing.

Read the updated national listings variety lists and plant breeders rights fees (PDF, 124KB, 6 pages) to calculate the total amount.

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.

Monthly Gazette

The Plant Variety and Seeds Office publishes a gazette giving notice about any of the following UK National List applications:

  • application accepted
  • application which is withdrawn
  • proposed, approved and changed names
  • proposed decision to accept or refuse a plant variety on to the National List
  • proposed grants
  • decision of the tribunal made on an appeal
  • changes to a National List award or application
  • grants and/or awards
  • proposed surrenders/proposed deletions
  • surrenders or deletions

You can use the gazette to follow the progress of an application through the Plant Breeders’ Rights and National Lists process.

Special edition

The UK National Lists of varieties of Agricultural Plant Species and Vegetable Plant Species are published monthly in the Special Edition of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette.

These lists are valid as of the last day of the month of the edition as published. Amendments to these lists are published in the monthly Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette.

The gazette includes the contacts for the address codes for the National Lists awards.

Previous Issues of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette or Special Edition.

If you need an earlier edition, email NLPBR-Applications@apha.gov.uk.

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

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 the PVRO.

You can also give your rights to someone else. Fill in an assignment of rights form and send it to the 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 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 infringement proceedings in court.

Contact the Plant Variety Rights Office

Contact the Plant Variety Rights Office at:

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

Tel: +44 (0) 208 026 5993

Email: NLPBR-Applications@apha.gov.uk

Published 7 September 2012
Last updated 3 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. New section - Plant varieties with registered rights in the EU before 1 January 2021 have been given a corresponding UK right.

  2. 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.

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

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

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

  6. Added information about how to apply online

  7. National Listing and Plant Breeders Rights fees updated.

  8. Fees document updated

  9. Updated address for pay by cheque

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

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

  12. First published.