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Abstract

This paper examines international trends in plant variety protection, a form of intellectual property rights for plant varieties akin to patents. The TRIPs Agreement under the WTO has given a strong impetus for the universalisation of plant variety protection regimes with common standards of protection across countries. This paper argues that developed and developing countries are likely to adopt widely divergent approaches to the development of intellectual property rights for plant varieties. The special features of plant variety protection constrain the appropriability of economic returns from protected plant varieties. Consequently, in developed countries PVP is being seen as a relatively weak intellectual property right instrument. As stronger forms of protection for plant varieties become available, the importance of plant variety protection in developed countries may decline. Developing countries continue to debate the merits of extending intellectual property rights to agriculture, though they too are obliged under the TRIPs Agreement to protect plant varieties. Their concerns are focused on the “inequities” inherent in a system of plant breeders’ rights. Attempts by developing countries to incorporate farmers’ rights provisions in their PVP systems are likely to dilute the incentives for private investment in plant breeding.

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