As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, challenges are being presented to the plant industry as the biggest flows of wildlife in terms of trade involves plants and not animals. Therefore, it is necessary to keep a close eye on the plant sector as well as supporting businesses involved in the trade of plants and plant products to assist in the easing of pressure on the food supply chain without compromising the requirements and rights provided under the applicable Plant Varieties Protection Laws.
With this global health outbreak, the use of plants or plants products is anticipated to increase dramatically. Therefore, we will shed light in this article on the laws and regulations that protect plant varieties in the United Arab Emirates and the latest amendments introduced to the list of varieties covered under the applicable laws. Especially regarding advanced agriculture and farming production that is efficient and competitive in international markets which is dependent on 1) the use of new plant varieties with unique traits that effect their yields and overcome plant diseases and 2) the existence of laws and regulations that provide comprehensive protection to breeders’ rights and that encourage breeders to engage in the cultivation of plant varieties.
In fact, many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, such as Egypt, have been very active in providing planet varieties protection. This includes registration and enforcement, at borders control, to interested entities and owners of such rights. We believe the UAE will continue to exchange expertise in this field and is keen to see more active protection for such an important asset of intellectual property rights.
Laws & Regulations that govern New Plant Varieties in the UAE
By way of background, the United Arab Emirates has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) since 10 April 1996, and further, the UAE has ratified biodiversity and environment-related international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity since 1992 and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture since 2001.
The UAE is obliged under the said mentioned agreements and conventions to provide protection for plant varieties and plant breeders. Accordingly, the UAE enacted the Federal Law No. 17 of 2009 on the Protection of Plant Varieties which is synchronized with the principles of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) although the UAE is still not a member to UPOV.
The Federal Law No. 17 of 2009 provided protection to plant varieties and plant breeders through Sui Generis System and the Implementing Regulations of the Plant Varieties Law issued by Virtue of Ministerial Resolution No. 598 of 2012.
The Director of Health & Agricultural Development at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (formerly known as Ministry of Environment and Water) is the Registrar of the registration and protection of new plant varieties and plant breeders in the UAE by virtue of the Ministerial Decision No. 377 of 2017.
Plant Varieties Subject to Protection in the UAE
The provisions of the Federal Law No. 17 for 2009 and its implementing regulations are applicable to 15 plant varieties which are specified in a list published by the Ministry of Climate Change Environment in accordance with Ministerial Resolution No. 598 of 2012 which are as follows:
|Common Name of Plant Variety||Botanical Name|
|1||Maize||Zea mays L.|
|2||Bread Wheat||Triticum aestivum L|
|3||Date Palm||Phoenix dactylifera L.|
|4||Strawberry||Fragaria x ananassa|
|6||Buffel grass||Cenchrus ciliaris L.|
|7||Rhodes grass||Chloris gayana Kunth|
|8||Elephant grass||Pennisetum Purpureum|
|9||Green panic||Panicum maximum|
|10||Blue panic||Panicum antidotale|
|12||Landscaping plants (Turkey Tangle Frogfruit)||Lippia nodiflora and others|
|15||Ornamental Plants||Flowers & Roses|
However, the Ministry issued its Ministerial Decision No. 338 of 2018 amending the list of plant varieties subject to protection by adding the following to the same:
|Common Name of Plant Variety||Botanical Name|
The other types of plants and/or plant varieties would be protected after ten years from the date of enforcement of the implementing regulations of Plant Varieties Law (i.e after 2022) in accordance with the provisions of Article (2) of the Implementing Regulations of the Plant Varieties Law.
Until 2022, it would be possible to submit a petition with the Ministry of Climate Change Environment for adding varieties which are not listed above, however, the decision on whether to accept the addition of new varieties would be subject to the Ministry’s sole discretion.
Registrability of New Plant Varieties
A variety is eligible for protection and registration under the Federal Law No. 17 of 2009 and its implementing regulation in the UAE if the following conditions are met
1. It is new: a variety shall be considered new and eligible for protection if the breeding material or collection material of the variety has not been sold or offered for sale or transferred to third parties in any manner – whether through the inventor or the approval thereof, for a period not exceeding:
(1) In UAE: One year from the determining date;
(2) Outside UAE: Six years from the determining date for shrubs and trees and four years from the determining date for other plants.
2. It is unique or distinctive: a variety shall be considered unique or distinctive and eligible for protection if the same is clearly different from another variety that is known at the time of the submission of the application for registration of the breeding rights for that variety, whether inside or outside the UAE.
3. It is homogeneous or uniform: a variety shall be eligible for protection if it is sufficiently uniform in its basic traits, as indicated in the application, and considering the variety’s method of reproduction.
4. It is stable: a variety shall be eligible for protection if its basic traits are stable, its description and traits are fixed even after repeated reproduction or at the end of every breeding or multiplication process.
5. It is harmless to health or environment
6. It is not contrary to Islamic law or to the applicable law in the UAE.
Period of Protection
The period of protection provided under the Federal Law No. 17 of 2009 is twenty years for agriculture yields from the date of grant of plant breeder’s rights. Excluded are varieties of shrubs and trees which are granted twenty-five years of protection from the date of grant of plant breeder’s rights. This makes the protection equivalent to patent protection under industrial property law in the UAE; however, the process of registering planet varieties requires less complex prosecution procedures in examination when compared to patents.
Rights of Owners as per the Federal Law No. 17 of 2009
Owners of registered plant varieties have the exclusive rights to exploit the protected variety; prohibit third parties from exploiting the plant varieties without their prior authorization; assign or license the plant varieties and institute legal proceedings in relation to infringement of plant varieties. Further, owners have the right to engage in the marketing, importation and exportation of plant varieties. Enforcement before borders authorities, i.e. customs, will be a very important step to consider and explore as the first defense line. Conducting training campaigns, awareness and initiating a recording process for planet varieties will be a very good starting point to improve protection for this important area of protection. Calls will be made for plant varieties owners to work together, as copyright and trademark owners have done in the past, to increase the level of knowledge for such rights with law enforcement authorities, initiate enforcement actions, complete formalities and propose the recording of plant varieties with law enforcement authorities in addition to official national registration.
For any queries or assistance with respect to plant varieties filing in the UAE and/or Middle East Region, please contact Partner and Head of Intellectual Property, Munir Suboh and Senior Associate, Amal Atieh