Dadaji Khobragade, who is a well known person in farmer’s fraternity due to HMT seeds and also his publicity of being considered one of the ‘Seven most powerful rural entrepreneurs’ is in news again. This time he is in news because one of the modifications of his famous HMT seeds has been registered under Protection of Plant Variety and Farmer’s Rights Act (PPV&FR Act). HMT seeds got its name from the famous HMT watches. These are said to yield much higher than other varieties and according to Khobragade it tastes better too.
· Dadaji Khobragade noticed few unusual looking rice seed in his paddy field, which he collected and replanted season after season till he developed HMT seeds (most popular rice variety).
When HMT became sought after in early 1990s, Dr. Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapith University borrowed 5kgs of HMT seeds from Khobragade to conduct experiments.
· After 4 years University released a new variety of ‘pure’ and improved form of HMT which came to be known as PKV HMT.
· According to news article in Down to Earth, VC of the University stated that the original seed may have come from Khobragade, but now it is entirely the University’s intellectual property (IP).
· In February, 2009 University filed application for PKV HMT to be registered.
· The Certificate of Registration (CoR) number 106 of 2012 for Rice Variety PKV HMT was granted to it and was published in Plant Variety Journal’s October, 2012 edition.
SOME QUESTIONS UNANSWERED
According to Mrinalini Kochupillai, in a blog article to spicy ip, she pointed out some questions that have been unanswered.
Some stats which were missing in the journal:
· Under paragraph (8) of the CoR where the applicant has to disclose the “Name and address of contributor, nature and amount of the contribution or the community knowledge used in the development of the plant variety,” the University has stated “N/A.” This is surprising given the news reports and the information on the National Innovation Foundation’s website which clearly identify Khobragade as being the developer of the HMT variety and PKV HMT as being an improved version of HMT.
· The University also does not consider its PKV HMT variety as being a variety “essentially derived” from HMT and provides “N/A” as the response to the question under paragraph (7) of the CoR, which seeks “In case of ‘essentially derived variety’, the details of the ‘initial variety’ from which the ‘essentially derived variety’ is claimed to have been derived.”
· Although the application was filed under the “new variety” category, the CoR categorizes it as an “extant variety.” Of particular relevance is the fact that the year 2008 has been declared as the date of commercialization of the PKV HMT variety under paragraph (10) of the CoR. This is surprising in that all news reports till date suggest that the PKV HMT was developed and purchased by 1998. Surely it didn’t take 10 years to commercialize following development. Even according to the Rice Knowledge Management Portal, the PKV HMT variety was released in 1998.
In order for Khobragade to receive any benefits under the PPV & FR Act, he has to prove that his variety HMT falls under:
1. As per section 39(1)(i) of the PPV&FR Act, “a farmer who has bred or developed a new variety shall be entitled for registration and other protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety under this Act.” In other words, if the farmer, like a breeder, creates a new variety, she would be entitled to all the rights guaranteed under section 28 provided her videoder apk variety is registered. Registration of a farmers’ variety is subject to it meeting the Distinctiveness, Utility and Stability (DUS) requirements under section 14 of the Act. If a farmer develops a new variety and does not obtain protection for it, she would have no claim under section 28 of the PPV&FR Act.
2. Under section 39(1)(iii), if a farmer is “engaged in the conservation of genetic resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants and their improvement through selection and preservation”, she is entitled to “recognition and reward from the Gene Fund”, provided, the material so selected and preserved has been used for the creation of varieties registerable under the Act.
According to me University should make changes in their registration and provide some benefits to Khobragade, as he was the one who first developed HMT seeds. If University would like to probe any lawsuits, against other companies, who are also commercializing HMT varieties, then they would like to keep Khobragade on their side. Even the rules say that contributors should be mentioned; in this case Khobragade is the contributor which can be easily understood.