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Governor Signs Seed Law Legislation

intellectual property protection, seed law legislation, protected seed varieties

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources

“Intellectual property protection is important to agriculture, just as it is to any other sector of the economy,” says Ken Bertsch, North Dakota’s state seed commissioner.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law senate bill 2261 on March 30. Among other amendments, the legislation increases the $5,000 maximum fine for a violation of seed intellectual property protection laws to $10,000, making it the highest state enforcement penalty in the U.S.

Introduced by state Sen. Terry Wanzek on behalf of the North Dakota State Seed Department, the legislation clarifies existing language requiring cover crops to be tested and labeled properly. The bill also increases the penalties for piracy, or “brown-bagging,” of protected seed varieties.

The maximum penalty is levied in North Dakota only in cases of violation of the Plant Variety Protection (PVP), Title V option. PVP Title V requires that seed be sold only as a class (Foundation, Registered or Certified) of certified seed.

“Intellectual property protection is important to agriculture, just as it is to any other sector of the economy,” says Ken Bertsch, North Dakota’s state seed commissioner. “An effective deterrent to violating the rights of seed variety owners also is important. Agriculture has changed immensely through the past decades. Input costs, including seed costs, have increased at very high rates. However, seed probably is the only input where the use of a pirated product actually can occur.”

Variety owners may be public institutions such as North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, Montana State or the University of Minnesota. Owners also may be private seed companies that devote millions of dollars to plant breeding. Both types of entities are dependent on the legal transfer of seed through proper certification, labeling and sales to generate income that furthers research into the development of new and improved varieties of seed.

“It’s impossible to estimate how much brown-bagging of seed takes place or how much income is lost to variety owners, seeds-men and retailers,” Bertsch says. “What is not in question is that each time it happens, it costs all parties. The only effective deterrent to seed piracy is to increase the risk of illegally selling or otherwise transferring a protected variety.”

Increased penalty provisions at the state level show a commitment to the integrity of the seed industry in North Dakota. The variety developer who chooses to use PVP Title V as its preferred method of intellectual property protection has a partner in enforcement of these rights in the state’s regulatory agency.

“As the industry has changed through time, I believe the passage of this legislation has North Dakota on the forefront of recognizing the importance of seed as intellectual property,” Bertsch says. “North Dakota growers retain the right to replant legally acquired Title V varieties. However, they also run a higher risk if violating an owner’s right to protect his or her interests.”

The legislation is supported by the North Dakota Crop Improvement Association, North Dakota Agricultural Association and American Seed Trade Association.

Any questions regarding variety protection, seed labeling or seed laws can be directed to the State Seed Department at (701) 231-5400. State seed laws may be found at http://tinyurl.com/ndslaws.

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