Mexico Faces Renewed Pressure to Implement the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention

In 1997, as a result of the commitments arising from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and after the publication of the Federal Law on Vegetal Varieties drafted in accordance with NAFTA, Mexico officially adopted the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Act of 1978.

As with all UPOV member states, the criteria for the protection of plant varieties in Mexico is that the plant variety be: (1) new, (2) distinctive, and (3) uniform and stable. However, the enforcement of plant breeder rights in Mexico substantially differs from other jurisdictions. As a signatory of the UPOV Act of 1978, instead of the updated 1991 Act, the term of protection for plant varieties is shorter than in most countries, namely, 18 years for perennial species (forest and fruit trees, vines and ornamentals) and their rootstocks) and 15 years for all other varieties.

In 2012, there was an attempt to approve a new Federal Law on Vegetal Varieties to bring Mexico in line with the UPOV Act of 1991 (1991 UPOV Act).  Unfortunately, due to the fragile state of the Mexican agricultural system along with several other issues, approval of the 1991 UPOV Act did not occur.  In 2012, the fragile state of Mexico’s agricultural system was due to the lack of regulations to properly address the social and economic complexities associated with the system as well as the challenges associated with obtaining access to financial resources to further develop the system within the country.

However, the recent negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as the current renegotiation of the NAFTA Agreement have resulted in new initiatives from the agroindustry in Mexico to modify the law and implement the 1991 UPOV Act.  Implementation of the 1991 UPOV Act would provide additional rights for plant breeders and improve the economic development of the agricultural industry.

Regarding the new initiatives, three particular areas are specifically being highlighted

a) Extension of the term of protection from 15 to 18 years to 20 to 25 years (depending on the species), in order to provide an equitable remuneration for the breeder and also to distribute the cost of the investment

b) Extension of the scope of protection to cover not only propagating material but also the product resulting from the harvest; an

c) Incorporation of the concept of “essentially derived variety” for the purpose of encouraging

The main objective of these proposed initiatives is to increase the competitiveness of Mexican developed varieties by improving the research programs available for Mexican native species, strengthening the enforceability measures available for protected varieties in order to promote an environment of innovation and investment as well as facilitate access and the transfer of technologies.

The most recent initiative is currently under internal review by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), however, there is a chance these may addressed sooner by the Mexican Congress.  However, the pace of the renegotiation of NAFTA will likely set the timetable for any movement on these initiatives.

This post was written by Lisa Mueller and Abraham Díaz and Erwin Cruz of Olivares.