Community Plant Variety Rights (CPVRs) play a vital role in protecting the intellectual property of plant breeders. However, recent trends have shown a concerning increase in undesired cancellations of CPVRs. This article aims to provide clarity and essential information to holders and the general public regarding the risks associated with non-payment of fees and the irreversible nature of cancellations.
Ángela Martínez, Legal Advisor at CPVO, explain the risks.
Q: What are the risks associated with non-payment of fees for CPVRs?
A: The non-payment of annual fees for the maintenance of a CPVR leads to cancellation by the CPVO, since the concerned payment is an obligation for the holder to keep the CPVR in force. The failure to pay fees in a timely manner puts the holders at risk of losing their rights and, consequently, of losing their substantive investments and potential future earnings.
Q: Can cancelled CPVRs be reinstated upon reception by the Office of a late payment?
A: No, cancellations of CPVRs cannot be reversed upon mere request and by making a late payment to the Office. It proves crucial for holders to understand that cancellations are, in principle, final and irreversible in nature. Once a CPVR is cancelled, a holder can nevertheless avail itself of the legal remedy of filing before the Board of Appeal of the CPVO an appeal against the Office’s decision of cancellation. However, this is a challenging procedure, which outcome is uncertain (since filing an appeal is no guarantee that the holder will succeed in its action). These proceedings can also be costly: the party to the appeal proceedings should be aware that the concerned costs could have been easily avoided if only the annual fee for the maintenance of the CPVR had been paid timely. To learn more about Board of Appeal proceedings, see here.
Q: How can undesired cancellations of CPVRs be avoided?
A: To prevent undesired cancellations, holders must be proactive in the management of their CPVRs, and this includes the timely payment of annual fees for the maintenance thereof. To this end, they should regularly access their MyPVR User Area and consult the documents placed therein. For instance, they should promptly respond to debit notes and reminders from the CPVO and ensure that the fees requested are paid timely. In this regard, the CPVO strongly advises to pay the annual fee as soon as the debit note is served, instead of leaving it for later and waiting last minute for the reminder letter to arrive. In this way, risks of non-payment are substantively reduced. In any case, holders should put in place the appropriate systems for the monitoring of compliance with time limits (including IT systems and the training of the relevant staff). Further, holders should be ready to fully embrace the perks of digitalization and utilise the IT platforms of the CPVO such as the MyPVR User Area and the Communication Centre.
Q: What benefits can holders gain from embracing digitalization in managing CPVRs?
A: By embracing digitalization, holders can enjoy plentiful advantages. For instance, the Communication Centre offers a channel for streamline communications with the Office, and the MyPVR User Area offers a centralized documentation, enhanced cybersecurity, and improved efficiency in managing CPVRs. These are user-friendly IT interfaces that enable holders to stay organized and communicate effectively with the CPVO.
Q: Why is it important, to emphasize the economic and emotional significance of CPVRs?
A: Community Plant Variety Rights (CPVRs) are invaluable assets for breeders, enabling them to maintain exclusivity in the marketplace. CPVRs can basically be relied on in two main ways: on the one hand, to enter into license agreements and draw stream revenues from the collection of royalties and, on the other hand, to enforce the right when it is infringed upon (as well as to dissuade any potential infringer from carrying out unauthorised acts with the protected plant material). Besides these practicalities, holders usually ascribe a high emotional value to the CPVRs, since these represent a “reward” milestone for the endeavours in developing the protected variety. Obtaining a novel variety demands significant investments of time, effort, and money, so the possibility of protecting the fruit of the breeder’s work constitutes an important incentive to keep innovating. However, to preserve the CPVR protection and all the economic and emotional baggage that it brings along, holders should remember that they are required to pay an annual fee which, if left unpaid, inevitably leads to the cancellation to the CPVR.