The role of Intellectual property rights in the field of agriculture

Author: Anil

ABSTRACT

Agriculture, the backbone of Indian economy is the primary source of income and occupation for the majority of the population of our vast nation. It accounts for a considerable share in the Gross Domestic Product ( GDP)  of the country. There are several laws in place which protect and safeguard the intellectual property of agriculturists. This paper deals with understanding and studying the existing laws and rights that the agricultural sector in India possesses with respect to Intellectual property and it also seeks to explain the Intellectual property rights that are pertinent to the agricultural sector in India. The paper also explains about the forms of protection that is being offered to the agricultural sector such as Patents, Trademarks, Geographical Indications , and Breeder’s rights.

KEYWORDS: intellectual property rights, patent, trademark, geographical indication

INTRODUCTION

The agricultural sector has been developing tremendously at a quick rate with headway in innovation and economy. With improvements of different assortments and more grounded transformations of plants and other rural advances; food and legitimate use should be guaranteed notwithstanding the reproducers and pioneers being urged to research, carry out and concentrate further headways. The green revolution of the 1960’s was a stimulus for seed enhancement and a revolution in science in agriculture which gave rise o application of IPR to scientific discovery in the life sciences. The adaptation of IPR and its application to the agricultural sector is derived from patent rights such as the plant breeder’s rights and introduction of patent over life-forms which lead to the growth of agro-biotechnology.

What is Intellectual property ?

 Intellectual property rights are legal rights which are bestowed upon its possessor which ensure and forestall unapproved business utilization by people not in possession of the said right. It is a legally recognized right which enables creators and innovators to be able to recognize and receive monetary rewards for their work for which they have dedicated time, efforts, and resources. The provision of these rights were enabled with an intention to foster an environment which encourages creativity and innovation. There are two main classifications of Intellectual property rights which are namely Industrial and Artistic copyrights.  Industrial copyrights are comprehensive of licenses, brand names, GI Geographical Indications), and plans; they not exclusively are comprehensive of Industrial property yet additionally agrarian property. Whereas Artistic copyright is inclusive of artistic and literary works, broadcasts, performances etc. Any right that does not fall under the said category are termed as Sui Generis rights which can be rights such as breeder’s rights etc.

IPR in Agriculture

It is important to protect and secure the goods and services that are being created in the farming area and the pertinence of IPR is displayed through something similar. The intellectual property rights that are involved in protection of the agricultural sector are patents, geographical indications, plant breeder’s rights, trademarks, and trade secrets. Patents are considered to be the most important tool of IPR in the agricultural sector as it provides assurance and safety for patentable plants and animals and biotechnological process. In Indian law , the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001 ensures protection with regard to plant and crops. This act was enacted with the purpose of  encouraging development of new varieties of plants and crops and empowers the owner of the right to forestall or control the use of his licensed innovation by any outsider. This right can be exercised only after a public disclosure of the patent document. The main reason as to why the publishing of these documents are necessary is to facilitate researchers to further develop on these products for future advancements.

Patents in Agriculture

A patent can be termed as a monopoly right that an individual possesses exclusively. In India Patents are not allowed for plants and animals , but are allowed for biological products, biological processes, bio-technical products , non-biological process. A patent can be granted to a product or a process.  Patents in agriculture can be given out to process of manufacture such as new or improved way of producing something, machine or apparatus produced by an individual, bio-products etc. However there is a limitation period established for the patent after which it becomes public and the individual can no longer prevent  a third party from using the same. The term set by statutory provision in India is a period of 20 years.

 There is also a criteria that must be fulfilled while filing for a patent which are factors such as novelty , non-obviousness, usefulness, industrial applicability. A case with respect to the said criteria is the Turmeric patent case where the US granted patent on turmeric to the University of Mississippi who professed to have tracked down its mending properties. Turmeric is a tropical herb that is widely used in almost every household of India and greater part of the populace have been utilizing the substance for different purposes including recuperating, for ages. On proving that the usage of turmeric was age-old, the patent of Turmeric awarded was revoked on grounds that it was obvious and anticipated. 

Bio technology is another sector where the applicability of IPR in agriculture plays a vital role where patents are now being granted to micro- organisms , gene sequences, bacteria etc.

Development of IPR in Agriculture

India was obliged under Article 27(3) (b) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), either to embrace a sui genesis framework for plant assortment safeguard or join the Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). While India had applied for UPOV enrollment, the public authority under the visionary initiative of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in any case, understood the limitations that the Convention would force on our agricultural sector . His administration painstakingly explored through the TRIPS arrangements and passed the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act in 2001. It turned into the world’s just IPR enactment on plant assortments that perceived and secured the privileges of the two raisers just as ranchers keeping up with conventional landraces.

There has also been a steady increase in granting plant breeder right’s to protect and reward the plant breeders intellectual property and efforts. This security would go under the Sui Generis safeguard which is viewed as not as viable as the others. However, the holder’s ability to forestall business abuse by an outsider is accessible to him.

Trademarks in Agriculture

A Trademark is essentially  mark which is used to distinguish the goods and services of one individual from another’s. It can be the shape of the goods, the packing , the color etc. For instance- On the off chance that an individual offers a manure administration under a specific brand and has enrolled his image name according to the enactment; he will undoubtedly be secured by the law. The fundamental motivation behind a Trademark is to recognize. There is an limitation period for the existence of a Trademark after which it is mandated to be renewed. Registration is not mandatory but it is always safer for the proprietor to register his mark in case of any disputes. A trademark is also a brand image which consumers may rely upon while choosing products due to the services, utility and satisfaction the brand represents. The protection enables by the act acts as a prevention to the wrongful usage of commercial marks.

GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS

The Geographical Indication of Goods ( Registration and Protection) Act,1999 is an act that comes under the Trademarks act was designed to overcome the lacuna faced by traders and manufacturers . Geographical indicators are commercial marks that are widely used in the agricultural sector. These marks are generally associated with products that have a unique origin, quality, characteristics etc. which are essentially attributed to its geographical origin. A trademark is mainly used to distinguish goods and services of one owner from another and to also exclude the unapproved usage and manipulation of a third party. Whereas a geographical indication is a demarcation or indication the informs the consumer that the item is delivered at a remarkable spot, or with specific attributes inferable from geological beginning. On enlistment of a GI , there is a making of a selective right that emerges with the client regarding the products. A GI can only be applied for by associations, producers, organizations or authorities established under the law. The act prevents individuals, partnerships, companies from registering for a GI.  The producers of goods can be classified into three as per the GI act. They are namely Agricultural goods which are inclusive of production , processing dealing of such good, Regular merchandise comprehensive of taking advantage of, exchanging or managing of such products, Handicrafts or Industrial merchandise including making, assembling, exchanging or managing of such merchandise. If a good is protected by the GI act, it prevents third parties from using or passing of their products as those originating in the GI region. Plants and its varieties that have been developed or grown by incorporating traditional knowledge and skill by people belonging to a particular geographical region can hold the status of a geographical indication. In India , majority of the share of GI tags are held by handicraft products. There are more than 369 GI tagged products in the country and the most number of GI tags are held by the state of Karnataka with Mysore as its leading city where there are about 18 tags in the city alone. Some of the famous examples from Mysore are the Mysore silk, Mysore Jasmine, Mysore Sandal , Mysore Bajnekai etc. Varanasi is another state with a huge number of GI tags. Some other examples are Blue Jaipur pots, Hyderabadi Haleem, Kolhapur Chappal, Darjeeling Tea etc.

Conclusion

Legislations have provided the agricultural sector with legal protection of Intellectual property such as Patents, Trademarks, Geographical Indications , and breeder’s rights. Biotechnological inventions are all protected by law. This has drastically boosted development and innovation in the sector. There is also a trend of protection being granted to Trade secrets which are relevant to agriculture. There is a need to improve the structure of IPR laws in the country with respect to its implementation and exhaustiveness .There is an inactive involvement of the Public sector which is detrimental to betterment of the agricultural enhancement in the nation. Privatization and monopolization prevents further innovations and advancements within the field. Monopolies reduce incentives to third party private entities from contributing due to legislative restrictions. The participation of Public sectors will prove to be beneficial for creating an improved agricultural environment. For instance, in the field of bio technology , industries are dependent on the IPR regime that is prevalent in India. Be that as it may there is availability of essential resources within the country but the only requirement is to monitor proper implementation of available resources.  There are various hindrances and challenges to agriculture and cultivation which can be owed to biotic or abiotic factors. Innovation and Technology play an immense role in the mitigation of such hindrances and the transfer of technologies in agricultural biotechnology has captured attention of many research organizations and funding agencies globally.

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