This paper attempts an empirical assessment of the incentive effects of plant variety protection regimes in the generation of crop variety innovations. A duration model of plant variety protection certificates is used to infer the private appropriability of returns from agricultural crop variety innovations in the UK over the period 1965-2000. The results suggest that plant variety protection provides only modest appropriability of returns to innovators of agricultural crop varieties. The value distribution of plant variety protection certificates is highly skewed with a large proportion of innovations providing virtually no returns to innovators. Increasing competition from newer varieties appears to have accelerated the turnover of varieties reducing appropriability further. Plant variety protection emerges as a relatively weak instrument of protection.