A fair reward to the breeders of new varieties, and the income to ensure that they can continue in their work. A level playing field for propagators and growers, with one set Plant Breeders’ Rights fee for every single plant. These are what royalty payments for vegetatively-propagated plants of a protected variety are about.
For around 300 breeders across a wide spectrum of genera, Royalty Administration International, an international leader in its field of activity, makes the payments system work.
Based in ‘s Gravenzande in the Netherlands, and founded in 1984, RAI has branches in Colombia, Japan and the USA. Maarten Leune, managing director, joined the business in 2001, and was previously a director of a chrysanthemum breeding company. He leads a team of thirty employees altogether, working worldwide. He says that it is their expert knowledge of the trade in vegetatively-propagated ornamentals, coupled with their outstandingly wide network of contacts, that drives the success of Royalty Administration International.
The company can help breeders at every step on the way to receive the rewards of their efforts. Obtaining the grant of Plant Breeders’ Rights, advising on marketing and on setting royalty fee levels, and making licensing agreements with propagators – all these are services provided by RAI. It is currently party, on their clients’ behalf, to around 3,500 tailor-made licensing agreements.
Once Plant Breeders’ Rights have been granted for a new variety, RAI makes sure that the royalty fee fixed is paid for every plant. The company’s field representatives and agents make around 4,500 visits annually, enabling them to keep full track of all movements of material of all the varieties for which RAI has undertaken responsibility.
During a visit to a propagator or grower all records of receipt and dispatch will be inspected. So will the ongoing production on the ground, not only of what the propagator or the grower shows to the visitor, but also of activity elsewhere within the business.
The aim is of course to prevent illegal propagation, and the existence of the system of inspection exerts a very positive pressure in itself. Only in a small minority of visits is anything irregular found. When it is, very often it is found that simple mistakes have led to the incorrect reporting of dispatches, deliveries and plant numbers in production.
Around 99% of problems found are resolved on the spot, says Maarten Leune. Where there has been intent to avoid payment of royalty fees, the co-operation of the offender is sought in agreeing to accept a penalty, plus of course the full payment of the royalties due. Depending on circumstances, the destruction of stock may be enforced.
In recent years DNA fingerprinting has often resolved disputes. It is rarely necessary to enter into legal proceedings, but this is undertaken as a last resort. Breeders involved have full support from the RAI.
Quite how successful the company has been through its 34-year history is well proven by the increasing number and diversity of its clients. They range from specialist micro-breeders working on a single species to large companies with a wide range of breeding activities. Clients’ portfolios embrace cut flowers, pot and bedding plants, perennials, shrubs, bulbs, vegetables and fruit. Chrysanthemum is commercially the most significant of all, with almost all major breeders of the flower represented by Royalty Administration International.
Author John Sutton