Who judges plants? Scientific-legal judgement of varieties for plant breeder's rights

MacDonald H

The Journal of World Intellectual Property


An internationally standardised system of intellectual property protection for new varieties of plants is outlined by the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention. Within this system, member States must determine who will be responsible for assessing plant varieties. Jurisdictions have adopted divergent approaches to this question, with varying degrees and modes of government involvement in the assessment process. Taking Australia as a case study, this article explores a decentralised system of expert judgement where individuals accredited as Qualified Persons are authorised to judge new plant varieties. Drawing on extensive interviews, this article outlines Australia's Qualified Person system, including the accreditation, training, and supervision of Qualified Persons. I argue that the formal system of varietal assessment is underlaid and buttressed by a multiplicity of informal elements, including the tacit knowledge of Qualified Persons, audit processes, apprenticeship-like learning practices and interpersonal relationships of trust between Qualified Persons and government officials.