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.
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)
The day the Plant Variety Rights Office (PVRO) receives your PBR application is known as a priority date. If PVRO grant your application, you will get the rights to a plant variety from the priority date.
During the application period you have rights over your variety from the date it’s published in the Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette.
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 that has already been accepted in another country. If PVRO grant your application, your UK rights will start on the date you made the application in the other country, not the date you applied for PBR in the UK.
The date you made the application in the other country is known as an early priority date. You can use an early priority date for your UK PBR application, if you have already 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 email@example.com
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:
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.)
Get consent for genetically modified varieties.
When you have done this, you can then apply by following these steps:
Apply online using UPOV PRISMA.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Get consent for genetically modified varieties
To apply for breeders’ rights for a genetically modified plant variety you must:
- get consent before you apply
- inform APHA
You will need to get consent from the relevant organisation. You should include a copy of your consent in your application for PBR.
Marketing consent for food and animal food
Contact the Food Standards Agency.
Food Standards Agency
Telephone: 020 7276 8829
Marketing consent for varieties that are not food or animal feed, or for research trials
Contact the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
Telephone: 020 7238 2051
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:
Complete and send your application on UPOV PRISMA.
Pay the UPOV PRISMA service fee - you will need to pay this for each variety.
Complete and upload an authorisation of agent form if you want to authorise an agent to apply on your behalf.
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|
|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, brown top, red top, creeping bent and velvet bent||When requested|
|Spring linseed, spring flax, spring oil seed rape||15 December|
|Ryegrass, white clover, festulolium||5 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|
|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|
|Species||Closing date for receipt of sample|
|Broad bean||15 February|
|Broccoli, calabrese, sprouting broccoli||15 March|
|Brussels sprout||28 February|
|Cabbage||All year round|
|Cauliflower||All year round|
|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|
|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|
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||9 to 11 January|
|Chrysanthemums, All Year Round Varieties (AYR) Crop 3||17 February||3 to 7 July|
|Chrysanthemums, Natural Season varieties, including garden varieties||1 December||11 to 14 April|
|Dahlias||1 December||8 to 12 May|
|Delphiniums, vegetatively propagated||1 December||20 to 24 February and 13 to 17 March, depending on type|
|Delphiniums, seed propagated||1 December||23 to 27 January|
|Herbaceous perennials, hardy varieties||1 December||13 to 24 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||17 to 21 April|
|Narcissus||31 May||21 to 25 August|
|Roses||30 September||1 to 15 November|
|Seed propagated ornamentals||1 December||23 to 27 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||13 to 24 March (different dates apply to varieties flowering over winter or in very early spring - contact APHA to ask about specific dates.)|
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
- 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.
Retained EU plant variety rights in the UK
Varieties with EU rights granted before 31 December 2020 have corresponding UK rights. You can find these varieties in the special edition of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette.
From 1 January 2024, if you have a retained EU plant variety right the Controller of Plant Variety Rights may ask you for:
- an address for service in the UK
- the name and address of an agent in the UK
Applying for new varieties in the UK and EU
For new varieties, you need to apply separately in the UK and the EU. You must apply to the:
- Plant Variety Rights Office (PVRO), APHA for UK protection using UPOV PRISMA
- Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) for EU protection
UK businesses can hold and apply for EU plant variety rights. You’ll need an address or procedural representative in the EU.
If PVRO approve your new variety, they will add it to the special edition.
How to change the details of your plant variety
Contact email@example.com 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:
Fill in an assignment of rights form.
Send it to APHA.
Contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency
You can contact the Plant Variety Rights team by email or post.
Plant Variety Rights Office
Animal and Plant Health Agency
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
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.
114 Lancaster Way
Telephone: 013 5365 3846
For the delivery of plant material for ornamental crops, contact Tara Sheldrake.