The policy goals of granting IPRs to plant varieties are grounded principally on an instrumentalist approach to IPRs. This is true both for patents and plant breeders’ rights.
Under this instrumentalist approach, new plant varieties are afforded legal protection to encourage commercial plant breeders to invest the resources, labour and time needed to improve existing plant varieties by ensuring that breeders receive adequate remuneration when they market the propagating material of those improved varieties. In the absence of a grant of exclusive rights to breeders, the dangers of free riding by third parties would be considerable. This is because the genetic material within plants that specifies their distinctive and commercially valuable features is naturally self-replicating, for example by reproduction of seeds or other propagating material. Self-replication makes innovations incorporating biological material particularly susceptible to exploitation by parties other than the innovator.
IPRs in plant varieties thus provide some assurance to breeders that they will be able to recoup the risks and costs of a value-added innovation that is based upon an underlying biological resource. (Lesser 1997; OECD 1996)
Ultimately, however, the grant of exclusive rights to plant breeders is designed to benefit the society granting the rights. It provides an incentive for private research and development into new breeding techniques, thereby reducing the need for government funding to subsidize these activities. It encourages the development of new and beneficial plant varieties for use by farmers and consumers. And it furthers the society’s development of agriculture, horticulture and forestry.
An international system of IPR protection for plant varieties expands these benefits by facilitating access to new varieties created in other states. Once breeders are assured that their rights will be protected in other states, breeders will be more willing to make their new varieties available in those states (assuming they have access to a distribution and marketing infrastructure). This benefits farmers, consumers and researchers in many more jurisdictions. (Lesser, 1997, pp. 8 and 10)