Lead Chief Investigator: Brad Sherman, The University of Queensland


The international UPOV Convention sets out a system of plant breeder's rights that is rooted in a phenotypic paradigm of plant protection.  

These laws describe and abstract plants using lists of carefully defined morphological characteristics, making them identifiable and amenable to intellectual property control.  

Recently, the increasing affordability and effectiveness of sequencing technology has led to consideration of the potential of molecular markers for describing and identifying plant varieties, and for resolving disputes about essential derivation.  

Genotypic descriptions of plants have the advantage of being environmentally independent, measurable without conducting a growing trial, and capable of providing quantitative assessments of difference between varieties.  

Their use is complicated, however, by challenges with associating genetic elements with phenotypic aspects, avoiding the incentivisation of ‘loophole breeding’, and with selecting molecular markers in a non-arbitrary way.  

Our aim is to explore the possibilities and limitations of molecular markers and gene sequencing for the intellectual property regulation of plant materials. 

An important goal is to identify how the legal schemes that regulate and control plant innovations need to be modified to take account of the type of research being undertaken in the Centre.  

Our research is important for ensuring that pathways to innovation in plant breeding are not restricted and that adoption of the Centre’s outputs are maximised.