Most modern laws that protect new plant varieties derive from the 1961 Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (‘UPOV’), which was subsequently revised in 1972, 1978 and 1991. UPOV provided a system that enabled breeders to recoup some of the associated costs of bringing a plant into cultivation through the grant of exclusive rights in the reproductive and propagating material of a new plant variety. By way of balance, others could use protected varieties for further breeding of new varieties. This new regime also provided additional benefits for contracting states: the ability to control the reproduction and maintenance of their own plant varieties as well as the improvement of access to new varieties from other countries.
Following an extensive debate, Australia adopted the minimum standards in UPOV 1978 and enacted them in the form of the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987 (Cth) (‘PVRA’). Some years later, Australia adopted and implemented the provisions of the 1991 revision of UPOV in the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 (Cth) (‘PBRA’).
Plant breeding: technical background
Plants are classified in hierarchical levels using Latin terminology, with the species forming the basis of the classification. The main levels are termedin Latin: divisio, classis, ordo, familia, genus, species. Examples of the common names for species include such things as roses, apples, wheat or potatoes. Plant breeder's rights (PBR) exist in propagating material, such as seeds, bulbs, tubers, spores and seedlings, of a particular plant variety.