Plant patents: scholars try to teach TIPO a lesson


Crystal Chen and Phoebe Yeh

The Draft Amendment of the Patent Act went through its first reading at the Legislative Yuan on April 6, 2011.

The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) said that plant varieties should be included as patentable subject matter. This has attracted dissent from scholars and local plant and seed associations. They believe that the patenting of plants and seeds would restrict innovation in this area and deal a big blow to Taiwan’s Phalaenopsis orchid industry, which is said to be worth in excess of 10 billion Taiwan new dollars ($345 million).

Under Article 24 of the Patent Act, only non-essential biological methods for plant genes, cells, tissue cultures and plant production are patentable subject matter. Parts of a plant—the fruit and seeds, for example—and a plant in its entirety are not patentable. TIPO intends to provide dual protection for the research and development of plant varieties by granting both patent rights and plant variety rights.

TIPO believes that plant patenting is a common practice, as it is adopted by many jurisdictions, including Japan, Korea, Australia and the US, while relatively few, such as India, Brazil and China, do not allow plant patents. It is also believed that plant patents could benefit biotechnology innovation in Taiwan.

TIPO, plant patents