UPOV PRISMA Helps Breeders Make Varieties More Widely Available
UPOV PRISMA is the new online PBR application tool.
Let’s say you just created a wonderful new variety after 10 years of crossing and selection, and now you want to protect that variety through plant breeders’ rights (PBR) in a number of countries. Until recently, you had to search for the different PBR application forms of the various countries, arrange some sort of translation of the forms, and often hire a local agent to file the application. Much of this cumbersome process is now history with the arrival of UPOV PRISMA. Seed World sat down with Ben Rivoire, technical/regional officer for UPOV, on the benefits of the new application tool.
Seed World (SW): How did the PBR application tool (UPOV PRISMA) come about?
Ben Rivoire (BR): The purpose of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is to encourage the development of new varieties of plants by providing an effective system of protection. New plant varieties have always been a key means for farmers to improve their economic situation and to deliver on food security to society as a whole. Today, with the challenges of climate change, urbanization and an increasing population, there is an acute need for an influx of new varieties. However, we recognize that without effective plant variety protection, breeders have limited possibilities to achieve a return on their investment. By making it easier for breeders to file PBR applications, farmers will have access to more varieties.
SW: Why is UPOV PRISMA necessary?
BR: For some time, it has been known that breeders have faced practical challenges in applying for PBR because the process was tedious and time-consuming. This was particularly the case for small- and medium-sized enterprises and for breeders in countries with less widespread languages. Furthermore, the administrative effort to make an application was the same for all countries, regardless of size. As an example, for countries with smaller markets, breeders cannot justify the investment in resources to seek protection. In the past, the tools to address those problems would have been too expensive and resource heavy to provide a cost-effective solution; however, recent advances in IT have created new possibilities. As UPOV started to explore such an approach, we received a significant number of enthusiastic responses from breeders and PVP offices.
SW: How were breeders involved in the development?
BR: Breeders have been involved since Day 1. We got support from breeding companies and regional and international organizations representing breeders. Their feedback on the proposals and their intensive testing of the prototypes were essential. Within UPOV, we created a working group of UPOV and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) experts to develop a functioning tool using an agile approach, where every step had to be tested and approved by users before moving to the next step. This was key to ensuring that the IT project would succeed. We were also lucky to have on board very competent, knowledgeable experts bringing with them a desire to quickly deliver a usable tool in a complex environment with a lot of technical aspects that needed to be addressed in a very pragmatic way.
We had to analyze business requirements and meet technical constraints, such as security, data confidentiality, data structure and transfer. Some of the key elements required included having an easy way to securely transfer application data, using an online platform with multilingual features.
After three years of development and testing in which breeders had the opportunity to provide input throughout the entire process, this unique international and multistakeholder team released a functioning tool at beginning of 2017, starting with a limited number of crops and countries.
SW: Why use UPOV PRISMA?
BR: UPOV PRISMA allows breeders to make applications through an online tool that has multiple functionalities, such as different languages and the ability to navigate and edit forms.
For countries that have not yet developed an online application, it is particularly relevant. This should incentivize countries to develop an online application, as UPOV PRISMA provides an international platform and exposure, in line with users’ expectations.
The tool increases breeders’ efficiency because they can easily access the latest application forms of participating UPOV members. Forms can be accessed anytime from anywhere; they simply need to select the crop and the country in which they want to make an application. As of today, breeders can select from a list of 22 countries and one region from around the world for all genera and species (when accepted by the authority). Countries include: Argentina, Australia, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, European Union, France, Georgia, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United States and Uruguay.
At the international level, the system becomes very attractive because it encourages applications in various countries across the globe. Thanks to UPOV PRISMA, it is now easy for any type of breeder, whether individual, small or large companies, public institutes or universities, to make an application not only in their own country but also abroad.
For example, a breeder in Canada could first use UPOV PRISMA to submit an application to protect their variety in Canada. Then, for the same variety, they might be interested in using the information from this first application to make a second application in a neighboring country, the United States. Much of the information contained in the original application will be automatically copied into the second application — easy and efficient. If this same variety has potential in Africa or Asia, again, the application can be copied to make new applications.
Farmers in these other territories would be pleased to have access to these new varieties. Simply put, UPOV PRISMA simplifies the application process for breeders and helps to make their best varieties more widely available.
The multilingual functionality is also a major breakthrough. The interface can be displayed in a choice of languages (French, English, Spanish, German, Chinese and Japanese). This would help, for instance, an American breeder to display the questions in English when completing an application for a soybean variety in Chile. The tool will then automatically translate much of the application (especially in the technical questionnaire, where breeders need to complete information in relation to the variety and describe its main characteristics) into Spanish, which is the language in which the application must be submitted to in Chile.
The tool provides the flexibility to fit the needs of each breeder. For instance, if you need to have a large number of people from the same company accessing the system or one specific pending application, you can assign different roles in the tool according to the responsibility of each member of the team. In smaller companies, you can perform the full process, from the creation of the breeder account to the completion of the application form, and from the application submission to online payment. Last but not least, the tool allows breeders to monitor and track their PBR-submitted applications around the world.
SW: What are the next steps in its implementation?
BR: The UPOV PRISMA team continuously looks for new features that will improve the quality of the tool and address users’ needs in terms of access to information or new ways of working. For instance, we are investigating: novelty alerts; alerts on application deadlines; information on next steps after the submission of application data; access to a list of local accredited agents and procedural representatives; information on distinctness, uniformity and stability cooperation; more participating UPOV members; how to cover all crops and species for all participating UPOV members; and more PVP offices with machine-to-machine links to UPOV PRISMA, where relevant.
SW: What advice do you have for plant breeders?
BR: Go online and test the tool. Make the most of this year’s special offer in which UPOV PRISMA is free of charge. It’s a unique opportunity to see how efficient and relevant UPOV PRISMA can be for you and your company. Use the system and see how it can help save time and create new business opportunities.
Ultimately, it is the seed industry as a whole, and the farmers who get access to the newly released varieties, that will benefit from this important new development.