Transfer Pricing Associates

IP Specifics for the Agricultural Industry


In the agricultural development sector, intellectual property is analyzed in the context of two different models.  The first is driven by private industry and is aimed more at profitability and is concerned with harnessing technology to enhance crop yield. The second is traditional small farmer-based, with support from the public sector, and is based more on the shared use of plant and technical knowledge and resources for sustainable agriculture.

The six types of IP rights which are most important to the agricultural industry are patents, trade secrets, protection of safety and efficacy data, plant variety rights, copyrights, and trademarks.  These rights are all granted and enforced independently depending on the national government in which they are registered or used.  More information on each is presented below:


Under the TRIPS agreement, patents should be available in WTO member states for any inventions, in all fields of technology, and the term of protection available should be the minimum twenty years.

Trade Secrets

In the agricultural industry, trade secrets are usually defined as manufacturing processes, names and addresses of scientists, composition of formulas, and analytical methods for impurities, among other elements.  

Protection of Safety and Efficacy Data

Some governments now look differently at proprietary health, safety and environment registration data since some protection of safety and efficacy data is required for reasons such as the aim to avoid repetition of animal studies by a second registrant.  These governments grant the data owner a period of exclusive use for the data, normally ten years for crop protection chemicals.  The exclusivity period provides that no secondary applicant can access this data without the express permission of the data owner.

Plant Variety Rights

The UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) provides a framework for IP protection of plant varieties. These rights are most often referred to as plant variety protection (PVP) rights or plant breeders’ rights. To be eligible for protection, the plant variety must be distinct, stable, uniform, and novel.


The purpose of copyright and related rights for the agricultural industry is usually to grant plant scientists and botanists the exclusive rights to copy, distribute and adapt their scientific work. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.


In the agricultural industry, a trademark is granted to reduce confusion in the marketplace by preventing the unlicensed use of the registered mark, or one of a similar nature, on goods which are the same or similar to those for which the mark is registered.


More detailed information on the intellectual property specifics of the agricultural industry can be found on the USPTO website (; the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) website ( ; and the CropLife International website (