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Plants are often the starting material for many drugs and in some instances the drugs may be produced by extraction directly from a plant, if chemical synthesis is too complex or expensive. Protection of these 'factories' can be important as part of the jigsaw of rights used to create a comprehensive monopoly for a product. As well as the patent system, which can be used to protect plants (though not varieties), there are separate rights to plant varieties and in the US also Plant Patents.
The Plant Variety Rights Office administers UK plant breeders' rights, and a separate system of EU plant breeders' rights is administered through the Community Plant Variety Office. Plant Breeders' rights entitle the holder to prevent others from exploiting the protected variety. The rights last for twenty five years, starting from the date of grant of the right, for all species except trees, vines and potatoes, which benefit from thirty years of protection.
The plant variety undergoes a technical examination to ensure it is distinct, uniform and stable. There is a novelty requirement. In this regard, a variety is new if, at the date of the application for protection of the variety, it has not been sold or disposed of with the consent of the breeder either earlier than one year before the date within the EU or earlier than four years before the date outside the EU (six years for trees and vines).
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