Intellectual property in plant breeding: comparing different levels and forms of protection

Sergio H. Lence, Iowa State University
Dermot J. Hayes, Iowa State University
Julian M. Alston, University of California, Davis
John Stephen C. Smith, Pioneer Hi-Bred International

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in European Review of Agricultural Economics following peer review. The version of record is available online at:


Welfare trade-offs between intellectual property (IP) protections provided by patents and by plant variety protection (PVP) are explored. PVP breeders’ exemption weakens IP protection, but may speed the transfer of research gains across firms. A model is developed assuming firms optimise research given existing IP protection. A baseline scenario supporting each system is used to perform welfare analysis, and study how the balance is altered between systems. Survey data suggest patents are more appropriate for longer-term, higher-risk research, whereas PVP is better suited for traditional breeding. A scenario where patents and licensing co-exist dominates PVP in all commercially relevant areas.