NZ Plant Variety Rights Update

Date:  19 June 2020

As part of New Zealand obligations under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP ) New Zealand is required to align its Plant Variety regime with the International Convention on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91) by 30 December 2021.

A Registered PVR provides the owner (breeder) of a new variety of plant with the exclusive right to control the harvested materials (flowers, fruit, foliage) and the propagating material, such as seeds and cuttings.

The New Zealand Plant Variety Rights Act 1987 (PVR Act) is over 30 years old and has only had minor amendments since it was first passed.

The review of the PVR Act began in February 2017 and has involved engagement with industry and Māori organisations and individuals. There has been much change in the plant breeding industry over the last 30 years and a need to ensure that the regime protects the interests in indigenous plants consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi. First signed on 6 February 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document to enable British settlers and the Maori people to live together in New Zealand under a common set of laws.  The principles of the Treaty are partnership, participation and protection.

Taking on the feedback from consultations on the Issues Paper in 2018 [copy here], an Options Paper was released for consultation in 2019. This considered the various options for changing the PVR Act [Options Paper].

The Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) who are carrying out the review of the PVR Act advise that they received 53 submission on the Options paper and held a two day hui ( gathering of interested parties) of industry stakeholders and Maori organisations and individuals in Wellington on 5 – 6 August 2019.

In September – December 2018 there was also consultation on options for introducing a requirement that patent applications include the origin of any genetic resources and traditional knowledge used in their inventions [Discussion Paper].

Further consultation is required as the Bill is being drafted, after Cabinet agreed to make changes to the PVR Act on 18 November 2019. The changes reflect New Zealand’s obligations under the CPTPP and the Treaty of Waitangi. In light of the government focus on Covid-19 MBIE have advised that further consultation will take place later in the year.

We are continuing to monitor the changes and will provide further updates.  If you have any questions, please contact us to discuss further.