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PLANT BREEDING AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PLANT SCIENCES IN GENERAL and above all biology and plant breeding have evolved very rapidly over the past two decades mainly due to advances in the knowledge of genomes. Against this backdrop plant improvement is a particularly innovative sector something evidenced by high investment in research and development about 15 per cent of the sectors revenue and the advances in genetics being applied to agriculture all over the world. The level and sustainability of research funding which growers and society as a whole need in order to face the challenges of the future depend largely on the recognition of the intellectual property generated by such research. A clear and workable framework and its associated tools for the protection of intellectual property are essential. Our aim here is to present an analysis of this issue drawing on half a century of opera- tional experience. We will aim to set out the issues we all face as public and private actors involved in innovation as well as public authorities. We will limit our analysis to a European framework since a broader scope would require taking into account the variations in legislation around the world and also the differences in development in the plant improvement sector in different parts of the world. THE FIRST STEPS THE CREATION OF UPOV In the 1950s the plant breeding community including public research organisations such as the French National Institute of Agricultural Research INRA proposed the establishment of a sui generis pro- tection system which led to the signing in 1961 of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants and the establishment of the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants UPOV. This need for a sui generis tool was a result of the very specific nature of innovations resulting from the practice of plant breedingplant varieties that were defined by the expression of the charac- teristics resulting from a given genotype or combination of genotypes. In other words plant varieties are protected as a whole as a result of the complex expression of the entirety of their genome. The Plant Variety Protection PVP certificate obtained as a result and governed by the UPOV convention safeguards the commercial exploitation of the variety for its breeder for a minimum of 20 or 25 years depending on the species. A fundamental element of the UPOV convention is the existence of an exception to the breeders rights called the breeder exemption whereby another breeder can use the protected variety in a breed- ing programme to create a new plant variety. This mechanism allows a virtuous circle of innovation in which the innovations of generation N are open to the entire community of breeders who through crossbreeding can realise further innovations in generation N1 which themselves are then available for generation N2. This mechanismthe virtuous circleworked extremely well for almost 50 years and proved satis- factory for everyone because the duration of the innovation cycle about 10 years was approximately the same as that of the commercial life of the innovation itself the variety. This meant that when the gen- eration N1 innovation the new variety appeared on the market that of the previous generation which had contributed to the N1 varietys creation was in general reaching the end of its commercial life. It is this balance between the length of the innovation cycles and the commercial lifespan of the plant varieties that has allowed the system to operate satisfactorily for the users public and private breeders and to the benefit of growers and society as a whole. THE ARRIVAL OF BIOTECHNOLOGY In the 1990s the development of biotechnology and advances in biology opened up important new areas of investigation and led to significant advances in knowledge however they also raised new questions concerning the protection of innovations. These considerations led to the adoption of European Directive 9844 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions. The directive excluded plant varieties from BY JEAN-CHRISTOPHE GOUACHE DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS LIMAGRAIN FRANOIS DESPREZ PRESIDENT MAISON FLORIMOND DESPREZ CLAUDE TABEL PRESIDENT RAGT Developing IP tools to better meet the sectors needs. JEAN-CHRISTOPHE GOUACHE FRANOIS DESPREZ CLAUDE TABEL 28 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM