Considering that many countries have enacted or in the process of enacting IPR laws, ICRISAT should ensure that others [private sector (PS) company, public sector institution or individuals] do not take IPR on ICRISAT’s research products (breeding lines, techniques, technologies, etc.) that would preclude others from using that product, and also prohibit ICRISAT from distributing the product to others. This could amount to infringing the international public goods (IPG) nature of ICRISAT’s research products, resulting in ICRISAT not being able to deliver its mandate. Therefore the Governing Board had asked ICRISAT management to develop a workable strategy/ policy on protecting the IPRs on ICRISAT-developed research products.
With the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) legislation enacted or expected to be operational soon in many countries, ICRISAT has to protect its research products to enable it to disseminate these products to public and private sector partners, and at the same time prevent others from infringing this vital ICRISAT’s role by seeking IPR on its research products. However, it would be imperative for ICRISAT to have an acceptable and equitable IPR management strategy that does not unduly distract it from carrying out its main business of generating a range of useful research products, taking into account the human and organizational sensitivities globally.These procedures are meant to reinforce the Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) system and not replace it.
The following workable strategy/policy on protecting ICRISAT IPRs was endorsed by the Governing Board during Sept 2004.
ICRISAT can effectively manage its IPR on research products (breeding lines, research methods, techniques, technologies, gene constructs, etc) by placing them in the public domain and making them prior art and preventing others from infringing on the rights. Three possible options that ICRISAT can follow to document the research products given below:
- – Document the research methods/products/techniques, etc., and make the information accessible to the common public by putting the documents in the public libraries and ensuring them to receive the library accession numbers. In case of breeding lines/parental lines, this can be handled by strengthening the existing ICRISAT’s Plant Materials Identification Committee (PMIC) for documentation (registration of lines), and depositing the seed of parental lines in the ICRISAT genebank.
- – Formal publication of research results as journal articles/papers in recognized journals that go to many libraries globally. In case of breeding material,this can take the form of formal registration of lines/varieties in journals, such as Crop Science. At ICRISAT, scientists can register the parental lines (and genetic stocks) in the newsletters, such as International Sorghum and Millets Newsletter, and the International Chickpea and Pigeonpea Newsletter,International Arachis Newsletter, and depositing the seed of parental lines in the ICRISAT genebank.
- – Seed can also be deposited along with the characterization data (including the DNA finger printing) with the NBPGR, New Delhi, India for registration of lines,and publication of documentation in the Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources.
The above three options are not mutually exclusive. In fact, all three can be followed to make the IPR case strong for ICRISAT.
- – The best option to protect ICRISAT’s materials (especially the parental lines, research products/methods) is to make them prior art, by putting the information in the public domain (Bulletins, Newsletters, Journals, Websites,etc.).
- – ICRISAT scientists should plan to publish the research results as soon as possible in recognized international journals, taking all preventive disclosure steps until they are published.
- – In case of parental lines (and other breeding lines), the characterization data can be published in bulletins/flyers, and the International Sorghum and Millets Newsletter, International Chickpea and Pigeonpea Newsletter, International Arachis Newsletter, and other journals where registration of variety/parental lines is possible.
- – Ensure that copies of journals or newsletters or bulletins are given Library accession numbers, as soon as they are received in libraries across the world.
- – The information should also be published on the ICRISAT website.
With these measures,ICRISAT research products will become prior art, and others cannot protect some thing that already exists in the public domain. Even if some one tries to register, it can always be challenged.