Plant variety protection rights are adapted to the characteristics of living matter and are comparable to patent rights. On a national level, the so called “Bundessortenamt” (BSA) and on a European level, the “Gemeinschaftliches Sortenamt” (GSA) is the competent authority for new plant varieties.
For Germany, plant variety protection rights are stipulated in the national plant variety law (SortG).
European Regulation (EG) No. 2100/94 concerning the common plant variety protection dated July 27, 1994 (GemSortVO) specifies plant variety protection in the territory of the European Union.
A plant variety application is subject to a substantive examination according to which distinctness, homogeneity, continuity and novelty is checked. Protection can be obtained for discoveries.
The scope of protection is limited to the reproductive material of the species to be protected. Moreover, plant variety protection is restricted to the so called “breeder reservation” according to which every other breeder is allowed to breed or newly develop new species without permission of the owner of the rights of the original species.
The scope of protection for the plant variety to be protected is determined during the application procedure by the BSA or GSA. Due to a double protection prohibition specified in the German patent law as well as the European Patent Convention, a patent cannot be granted for a plant variety as far as it can obtain plant variety protection.
Plant variety protection can be obtained for 25 years at a maximum. This applies for Germany as well as for protection on a European level. With respect to vine and tree species, national protection can be even obtained up to the end of the 30th calendar year following the date of granting. European law only provides for protection duration of 30 years with respect to potatoes.