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The Intellectual Property Right of Animal and Plant Varieties Should Also Be Protected
The 97-year old RHS Chelsea Flower Show Invited Taiwan to participate in the 2010 exhibition and Queen Elizabeth II went and admire Taiwan orchids at display and show her appreciations of the beautiful orchids we uvderstand firmly the accomplishments of Taiwan agricultural a efforts in protecting variety rights during the pass few years.
Taiwan is acclaimed as the kingdom of orchids which supplies the world with one third of all orchids. Since reaching agreement with the European Union on mutual acceptance of apllications for plant variety rights in early 2007, Taiwan flower farmers have been given sufficient protection when exporting to Europe because they can exercise their variety rights there. When visiting Taipei in March 2009, President Bart Kiewiet of European Community Plant Variety Office reached a consensus with our government on practically accepting Taiwan's Phalaenopsis orchid variety characters certification reports, simplifying application procedures for Taiwan Phalaenopsis orchids' plant variety right in the EU and thus strengthening Taiwan orchid industry's competitiveness.
"Territoriality principle is applicable to plant variety rights," noted the Agriculture and Food Agency (COA), "and Taiwan's orchids could not apply for variety rights in Europe as a legal or natural person prior to 2007." Many European flower businessmen bought several flower seedlings in Taiwan and applied for variety rights when returning to Europe, with the result that Taiwan flower businessmen were unable to sell their flowers in Europe.
After reaching variety right agreement with the EU, European businessmen still buy flower seedlings in Taiwan but now they also buy out rights to apply for plant variety right at a high price. "Some varieties popular on the market can be sold for more than NT$1 million per variety when participating in flower shows," according to flower businessmen.
The AFA pointed out that due to agricultural agencies' efforts, China included orchids in the list of protected new plant varieties on March 1, 2010, allowing Taiwan orchid breeders to apply for plant variety protection in China. This has greatly helped the development of Taiwan's orchid industry.
More than 90% green soybeans produced in Taiwan are exported to Japan and Taiwan reached in 2006 an agreement with Japan on mutual accpetance of applications for plant variety right. When Taiwan businessmen applied for variety right in Japan, they can sell green soybeans at a doubled price.
But not all plants can apply for variety right in Japan, said the AFA. For example, native varieties and those being sold in Taiwan for more than one year or sold abroad for more than 4 years (for woody plants or vine plants 6 years) are excluded from variety right applications. But plant varieties with market value must apply for the right. Only by carrying out global deployment Taiwan industries can survive. For example, China businessmen want to plant green soybean varieties they bought in Taiwan and then sell the green soybeans to Japan, Taiwan breeders can assert their variety rights to stop China green soybeans from exporting to Japan.
Thus, Taiwan must sign agreements with other countries on mutual protection of recognized variety rights for local breeders to protect the variety rights they have applied from infringement.
In recent years Taiwan breeders have gradually recognized the importance of protecting the intellectual property rights of crop varieties they developed. A total of 139 plant variety right applications were filed in 2009, increasing by 131% compared with 60 applications in 2005. About half of the applications and those approved applications are for orchids with high economic value, according to AFA statistics. As of May 24, 2010, government agencies have accepted 817 variety right applications for 126 proclaimed plant varieties and published 467 approved applications.
Registering plant variety rights for tree varieties with economic value has also become popular gradually. Director-General Huang Yue-hsing of the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) cited the example of genetically modified Eucalyptus which were imported from abroad as saying that when passing biological safety test in isolated experiment site, the techniques can be transferred for mass production of the Eucalyptus abroad if the businessman can prove that he owns its plant variety right. With the protection of variety right, Taiwan developed varieties won't be mass produced abroad without legal authorization or passed off as native varieties of forign countries. Only by doing so can ensure that the achievements of Taiwan R&D personnel's painstaking efforts and their interests are protected. Dr. Chung Chen-teh of the TFRI Silviculture Division said if the TFRI can apply for and get plant variety right of Taiwan Luanta fir or Taxus celebica Li, then they can be protected and won't be planted abroad without authorization.
Since Taiwan has not yet established tree variety right verification system, the TFRI has been assisting the Forestry Bureau in setting up tree variety right registration and examination systems. If the systems can be established by the end of 2011, Taiwan will be able to protect its tree varieties from infringement by owning their variety rights.
As compared to plant variety rights for which the international society has established rules of the game, there are still no such rules for animal variety rights. Director Huang Ying-hau of the Livestock Research Institute pointed out that in order to maintain the genetic stability of a certain purebred animal, there must be a large group of this purebred animal but it is quite difficult. Since animal variety rights can not be easily polagiarized, so establishing the animal variety right protection system is not as urgent as setting up a similar system for plants at present and even advanced European countries and the United States have no such system. However, Mr. Huang said as technology progresses and the environment changes, when it is really needed in the future Taiwan will gradually establish the system to protect animal variety rights in response to the international trend.