Let’s say you just created a wonderful new variety after 10 years of crossing and selection, and now you want to protect the variety through plant breeders’ rights in a large 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 do the filing. Much of this cumbersome process is now history with the arrival of the UPOV PRISMA tool. European Seedtalked with Ben Rivoire, Technical/Regional Officer for UPOV on the benefits of the new application tool.
European Seed(ES): Can you explain a bit about the development of the Plant Breeders’ Right Application tool (UPOV PRISMA) in the context of UPOV?
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 varieties of plants have always been a key means for farmers to improve their economic situation and to deliver 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 a flow of new varieties. However, without an effective system of plant variety protection, breeders have limited possibilities to achieve a return on their investment. The UPOV Report on the Impact of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) demonstrated that breeders are reluctant to release varieties where they do not have effective protection. By making it easier for breeders to make applications for plant breeders’ rights, farmers are going to have access to more varieties than in the past.
ES: Why did UPOV consider it necessary to start the development of the UPOV PRISMA?
BR:For some time, it has been known that breeders have faced practical challenges to make applications for plant breeders’ rights 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, so for countries with smaller markets, breeders might not have been able to 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, there were enthusiastic responses from a significant number of breeders and PVP offices. However, it was important from the start of the development of the tool to involve key stakeholders and users of the system on both sides (breeders and PVP offices).Plant breeders have faced practical challenges to make applications for plant breeders' rights because the process was tedious and time-consuming.
ES: Was there any breeders’ involvement in the development of UPOV PRISMA? If yes, how?
BR:Breeders have been heavily involved since the very first day. The initiative was supported by breeders from the beginning and we are still receiving very strong support from all breeding companies and regional and international organizations representing breeders. Their feedback on the proposals and their intensive testing of the prototypes were essential and the project would not have succeeded without that vital contribution. Within UPOV, we created a specific working group of UPOV and 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 is a key aspect to ensuring that the IT project would succeed and that a workable tool would be made available at the end of the journey, fulfilling deliverables and within the agreed timeframe. We were also lucky to have on board very competent, knowledgeable experts bringing their competencies and desire to deliver a usable tool quickly in a complex environment with a lot of technical aspects to be addressed with a very pragmatic approach.
We had to analyze business requirements and meet technical constraints, such a security, data confidentiality, data structure and transfer. Some of the key elements required were to have an easy way to transfer application data, in a secure way, using an on-line platform with multi-lingual features.
This unique international and multi-stakeholder project team allowed, after three years of development and a series of testing campaigns in which breeders had the opportunity to provide their inputs through the entire process, to release a functioning tool at beginning of 2017, starting with a limited number of crops and countries. The first year was important to validate all the technical and procedural aspects of a fully functioning system in order to be able to move to a larger scale deployment which would be particularly relevant for breeders to use.
ES: Why do you think is it advantageous for a breeding company to use UPOV PRISMA?
- Online application tool to submit application data to participating PVP Offices in required format
- Application forms can be displayed in a range of languages
- Easy access to PVP application forms
BR: UPOV PRISMA allows breeders to make applications through an online tool that has multiple functionalities, such as different languages in which is it possible to navigate and edit application forms within the tool.UPOV PRISMA allows plant breeders to make PVP applications through an online tool that has multiple functionalities.
For countries who had not yet developed an online application platform, it was particularly relevant, and this remains a very strong incentive for countries to join in the development of a tool providing an international platform and exposure, in line with international standards and users’ expectations.
The tool is very efficient for the breeders because they are able to access the latest application forms of UPOV members easily in UPOV PRISMA. They can access those forms from anywhere at any time, they simply need to select the crop and the country in which they want to make an application.
The tool available today allows breeders to select in a list of 22 countries or region(see list below with search feature available online: www.upov.int/upovprisma) all over the world for all genera and species (when accepted by the authority). For users of the European system at the CPVO, it is now possible to link the two systems, meaning that the information will be transferred automatically from UPOV PRISMA to the CPVO online system. For Europe, we initially started with five crops (rose, soybean, potato, lettuce and apple), but there is a clear commitment to move soon to more crops in the coming version to be released this summer 2018.The multilingual functionality of UPOV-PRISMA is a major breakthrough in terms of usability for plant breeders all over the world.
The multilingual functionality is also a major breakthrough in terms of usability for breeders all over the world. The interface can be displayed in a choice of languages (French, English, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese). This would help, for instance, a French breeder to display the questions in French for an application for a rose variety in Colombia. The tool will then automatically translate much of the application (especially in the technical questionnaire where breeders need to complete all the information in relation to the variety itself and describe its main characteristics) into Spanish which is the language in which the application must be submitted to Colombia. Having access to drop down lists with pre-filled information extracted from the UPOV Technical Questionnaire (TQ) or National/ regional characteristics helps the breeder to select the relevant information and to have it translated into the language required by the country selected which has provided national approved translations. For example most of the information in the TQ of any application in Turkey will be translated into Turkish. Breeders only need to provide the remaining free text translations; which could be a small part of the entire application form!
Breeders are able to duplicate a previous application for the same variety, or start a completely new application and submit their application on-line.
The reusability of data is a key aspect and benefit for breeders, as it really saves time and effort. For example, if you have submitted an application in the Netherlands for lettuce in UPOV PRISMA you can copy all the information already provided and saved in the system into a subsequent application in New Zealand, for instance, or Chile. Much of the application form will be completed automatically as the same data was contained in previous applications, which saves a tremendous amount of time and also ensures consistency between applications for the same variety.
- Different user roles can be specified (e.g. drafter, signatory, translator, agent, procedural representative)
- Controlled access, secure and confidential
- Track your applications
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, by yourself, the full process from the creation of the breeder account, to the completion of the application form (including the technical part) to application submission and make payment online via the secured interface. Last but not least, the tool allows breeders to monitor and track PBR submitted application around the world.
ES: What are the next steps in its implementation?
BR: The UPOV PRISMA team is continuously looking 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 currently investigating the following:
- Novelty alerts
- Alerts on application deadlines
- Information on next steps after application data submitted
- Access to a list of local accredited agents/ procedural representatives
- Information on DUS cooperation
- More participating UPOV members
- How to cover all crops/species for all participating UPOV members
- More PVP offices with machine-to-machine links to UPOV PRISMA, where relevant
ES: Now that the first applications have started to come in, what would you advise to plant breeding companies in terms of using UPOV PRISMA?
BR: Go online and test the tool for yourselves, make the most of the special offer this year 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 you save time and create new business opportunities.
Ultimately it is the seed industry as a whole that will benefit from this important new development and the farmers who get access to the newly released varieties.
Go to the UPOV PRISMA Website (www.upov.int/upovprisma) to see how to get started, and the UPOV PRISMA Team remains at your disposal to guide you through the process and reply to your questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).