A large farming operation in Southern Alberta has reached the largest cash settlement in a Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) case in Canada's history.
The farming operation agreeing to a cash settlement of over $737 thousand dollars which includes royalties, legal and investigative costs.
Todd Hyra is the Western Business Manager for Secan, one of three seed companies involved in the case.
Hyra declined to reveal the farming name, location or specific varieties, but noted it involved six different wheat and barley varieties.
"This farm was selling seed protected varieties either direct to customers or providing custom seeding services to others and using protected genetics. And so in both of those cases that is a violation of the plant breeders rights"
The three seed companies, Secan, Alliance Seed and one other have been working on trying to come to a successful resolution on this case for the last five years, the case itself covered sales made over a six-year time span.
Hyra says there's a range of ways to find out if someone is in violation adding this started with an ad in a publication that they were able to follow up on.
" In this particular case the seed industry players - the three seed companies - worked together with the IP (Intellectual Property) division of Seeds Canada."
Hyra notes it's important to get the message out to producers, and processors because under the new PBR Rules it's not only the seller that is potentially liable, it's the purchaser as well.
"Farmers need to understand the rules and abide by those, because this is not a fun or easy process for anyone. To avoid costly mistakes it's just a matter of asking a few questions and making sure they understand the rules going forward."
According to Hyra Plant Breeder Rights legislation helps to protect plant breeders investments and encourages future investment in new varieties.
"Without that there would be very little incentive for a plant breeding program to work in Canada and bring new genetics because it's something that can be regrown. And without those rules, we just wouldn't be able to attract the brightest and the best plant breeders to Canada to work for us and invest in future varieties. So when you look at this particular case, and when you're talking for $700,000, it really shows the magnitude of the dollars that could be missed out on a breeding program. And while there are pieces that are funded in different ways, some publicly developed products, but really the royalties an important piece of how plant breeders are rewarded."
He emphasizes that the industry is monitoring violations of Plant Breeder Rights closely.
"We get leads all the time. It could be an online advertisement, it could be from a customer themselves. And so we're trying to make sure that the playing field is level. When somebody is taking advantage of genetics that have been developed by somebody else, then that's not fair. And what we really want to have is a level playing field for everyone."
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More information on Plant Breeders Rights can be found here.