Purple reign: Protecting IP in Ontario’s wine industry

| Nov 30, 2020 | Patents, Plant Patents |

A good map of Ontario’s wine-producing regions might color the Niagara Peninsula royal purple, with a swath of plum along the north shore of Lake Erie, a tiny patch of periwinkle for Pelee Island and a brilliant violet filling in the irregular contours of Prince Edward County. While those are the province’s most celebrated viticultural areas, a proper wine map would certainly include a palette of various purples for Four Mile Creek, St. David’s Bench, Lincoln Lakeshore, Vinemount Ridge and other emerging wine-producing areas.

Protecting wine industry IP

Ontario is home to more than 150 vineyards spread across more than 17,000 acres. Just as the growth of the woody vines and lush leaves of grapevines can be nurtured and protected, so too can the intellectual property generated by the wine industry be encouraged and safeguarded.

If you develop a new strain of wine grapevine with a particularly delightful flavor profile or one that’s especially well-suited to thrive in Canada’s climes and soils, you might want to protect the market value of your discovery with a form of intellectual property protection known as plant breeders’ rights (PBR).

A PBR certificate gives you marketplace protection with exclusive rights to the sale, production, reproduction, export, import, stocking and conditioning of your variety’s propagating materials (seeds, cuttings, roots, etc.). That means that with a PBR certificate, you can pursue compensation if your variety is used without your authorization.

Checklist for your vine

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office says on its website that in order to be protected by PBR, a variety must be:

  • New: your variety of vine cannot have been sold longer than a year in Canada and up to six years outside of Canada
  • Distinct: your “variety must be distinct from varieties whose existence was of common knowledge on the date of filing of the PBR application”
  • Uniform: the characteristics of your vine must be “sufficiently uniform”
  • Stable: your vine variety must carry those uniform characteristics from generation to generation

After a PBR certificate application has been filed with the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office, you can request an examination of your variety so that trials can be conducted. If all goes well, and no objections are raised to the application, your vine can be eligible for PBR protection for 25 years.