To learn more about how seed companies are experiencing the new UPOV-PRISMA application tool, European Seedspoke with Astrid Schenkeveld, Specialist Variety Registration & Protection at Rijk Zwaan, and Jan Knol, Plant Variety Protection Officer at Nunhems, who both have been using the UPOV PRISMA tool from the beginning.
European Seed: Why was it necessary to start the development of the UPOV PRISMA tool?
Astrid Schenkeveld (AS):We are living in a world in which electronic exchange of documents is more rule than an exception. It improves efficiency and hopefully it will encourage standardization of the forms.
Jan Knol (JK):I think the UPOV PRISMA tool might simplify the PVP landscape, where every authority is starting to make its own online filing tool, we would have one filing tool that is relevant for all countries.
ES: Why is UPOV PRISMA important for your breeding company?
JK: For us as a company, to have one fully functional filing tool, which would be easy in use, is really an advantage.
AS: Rijk Zwaan is an international breeding company with subsidiaries in 30 countries and we have sales worldwide. Our vegetable varieties travel across the world. A tomato variety can be grown in Southern Europe, but also in South America, a cucumber or sweet pepper can be grown in Canada as well as in the Netherlands. One lettuce variety can be grown in Europe as well as in Australia, in the US or in Asia. Our head office is situated in the Netherlands, from where all PBR applications are coordinated and prepared. We need the help of our subsidiaries or agents to translate and submit the forms. It is something they have to do on the side, because their main job is to provide seeds and services to our customers. So, they are not as specialized as we are, in the ‘UPOV’ language. That is why my department needs to prepare the forms as much as we can.
The UPOV PRISMA tool is important to us because it has the potential to provide us with an efficient and reliable tool to submit our PBR applications. The efficiency depends on the reusability of the data, so the layout of the questions. When a country mostly follows the UPOV TG and uses drop down menus, then the data can be reused, and answers can be automatically translated. This saves us time and money and makes our application more reliable, because there can be no misinterpretation by the translator. However, when a country uses open text in its forms or deviates greatly from the UPOV TG, then this would make the system far less efficient. Because the system requires an extra fee, it can create an obstacle for the applicant to use the system.
Of course, there is always the advantage of having the latest version of the forms available in the system and an application can be submitted by one click instead of printing and sending by courier.
ES: How did you and other breeders participate in the development of UPOV PRISMA?
AS: We and other breeders have been involved from the start. Together with the member states we chose the species on which to start. Lettuce was the first vegetable species chosen. Then we entered into a very technical phase, setting up definitions and standards for the database. Luckily my IT colleague Marlon was able to help me, and we worked as a team. She understood the logic of the definitions and I understood the content of the questions asked. Other breeders did the same. We provided input through a Wiki, which worked very well, and we could also see the comments made by the other breeders and member states. When the system was set up, we could start to test. Together with my colleague Denise from our department, and together with other breeders we extensively tested the system and again used the Wiki platform for our input. We have put in quite some time, as have other breeders, because we think it can become an important tool for us.
JK: We helped in testing the first versions. During the first use of UPOV PRISMA we encountered some problems specifically with the agent role, and our feedback in the end helps UPOV to further improve the UPOV PRISMA tool for future use.
ES: How easy is UPOV PRISMA to use, in your experience?
JK: It still has some hurdles (for example all the different roles in the system) but if UPOV keeps working on improvements, it might become a really good and easy tool to file your plant variety in several countries.
AS: It is amazing the amount of work done by the UPOV office. I think that it has become a very user-friendly system. Once you have a login, the system guides you through the process, step by step. Some questions are mandatory, and you can clearly see if you have missed one of those questions. I really like to drop down menus, and when comparing the candidate to the most similar variety, you can either choose between a drop down or a free text. That is very helpful as well. When the forms are UPOV harmonized, it is not much more work than booking an airline ticket online.
It has been a while since I had tested for the last time, so I had to look how I could copy from another application, but it worked. When I showed the system to another colleague, who is responsible for lettuce applications and had not been part of the testing team, she was surprised and enthusiastic.
ES: What are the advantages of UPOV PRISMA over the current possibilities?
AS: The largest advantage is the transparency of the forms. You always have the latest version and the questions are translated in our case to English. You can submit the application electronically, which saves time and the application can be traced. The data is stored and can be reused in other applications. It is also possible to upload an .xml from your database in UPOV PRISMA, but we do not have experience with that yet.
JK: A major advantage is that you are always working with the most recent application form and in certain countries you might save on translational costs. Furthermore, when starting to apply in a new country, in the near future UPOV PRISMA might give you some suggestions about which agents you could approach.
ES: What would be the key developments that you would like to see in the future?
JK: In UPOV PRISMA meetings, we realize that certain PVP authorities are starting to understand that some of the unique questions in their PVP procedure might not be necessary, as other PVP authorities also do not ask these questions. In this sense authorities learn from each other and start to become more focussed on harmonization instead of creating unique questions specifically for their country only. This hopefully leads in future to one identical questionnaire. After completing the application form, as applicant you can then tick the boxes of which countries you would like to apply in.
AS: I would like to see more member states becoming involved and also more species being added. Now is the time to look for harmonization. The efficiency depends on the reusability of the data, so the layout of the questions. Therefore, I would like to encourage the member states to follow the UPOV TG as much as possible and use drop down menus, so the data can be reused, and answers can be automatically translated. I also would like to encourage them to closely look at the information they really need in order to accept an application. Do you really need the information on the basis of the UPOV Convention or your national legislation or is it ‘nice to have’? For instance, information about the pedigree or the breeding goals often have to be submitted in open text, so it cannot be reused or automatically translated while this information is not relevant for the purpose of granting plant breeders’ rights. It makes the system less attractive and might not give the added value to make up for the extra cost.
ES: What would you advise to other plant breeding companies in terms of using UPOV PRISMA?
AS: On the UPOV website, you can have a look at www.upov.int/upovprisma, where you can find a lot of information. If you have not tested the system, you can either contact UPOV to get access to the testing environment or create a WIPO login and have a look for yourself.
JK: Start using the UPOV PRISMA application tool to get experience and with that experience you can make a well-funded decision in how your company might benefit from the UPOV PRISMA tool.