Farmers' rights in the ECJ
The European Court of Justice gave its ruling this morning in Joined Cases C-7/05 to C-9/05, Saatgut-Treuhandverwaltungs GmbH v
Ulrich Deppe, Hanne-Rose Deppe, Thomas Deppe, Matthias Deppe, Christine Urban (née Deppe), Siegfried Hennings and Hartmut Lübbe. This was a reference from the German Bundespatentgericht in 2004 for a preliminary ruling on Council Regulation 2100/94 of 27 July 1994 on Community plant variety rights. According to Article 14(1) of the basic regulation, which provides for a derogation from Community plant variety rights,
‘... farmers are authorised to use for propagating purposes in the field, on their own holding the product of the harvest which they have obtained by planting, on their own holding, propagating material of a variety other than a hybrid or synthetic variety, which is covered by a Community plant variety right.’By Article 14(3), farmers (other than small farmers) must pay
'an equitable remuneration to the holder, which shall be sensibly lower than the amount charged for the licensed production of propagating material of the same variety in the same area; the actual level of this equitable remuneration may be subject to variation over time, taking into account the extent to which use will be made of the derogation ...’.But what is remuneration which is 'sensibly lower'? The ECJ ruled as follows:
"1. Without prejudice to the assessment made by the national court of the other circumstances relevant to each of the main proceedings, a flat-rate remuneration of 80% of the amount charged for the licensed production of propagating material of the lowest category qualified for official certification, of the same variety in the same area, in the event of recourse to the agricultural exemption referred to in Article 14(3) .. does not satisfy the condition that remuneration has to be ‘sensibly lower’ than the amount charged for the licensed production of propagating material within the meaning of Article 5(2) of Commission Regulation 1768/95 [implementing rules on the agricultural exemption] ...The IPKat, who (embarrassingly) does not feel qualified to pass any comment on this decision, invites comments from that small, select band of people who practise in this field. Merpel adds, you can get some good background reading on this issue from European Community Patent Protection, the book recently published by OUP and written by Gert Würtenberger and his friends (blogged here).
2. The criteria for determining the remuneration to be paid to the holder of a Community plant variety right are set out in Article 5(4) and (5) of Regulation 1768/95, as amended by Regulation 2605/98. Those criteria have no retroactive effect but they may serve as a guide for the calculation of that remuneration with respect to planting carried out before the entry into force of Regulation 2605/98.
3. In order for an agreement concluded between organisations of holders and of farmers, as referred to in Article 5(4) of Regulation 1768/95, as amended by Regulation 2605/98, to be used as a guideline as regards all its parameters, that agreement must have been notified to the Commission of the European Communities and published in the Official Bulletin of the Community Plant Variety Office and that is so even if it was concluded before the date on which Regulation 2605/98 entered into force. Such an agreement may provide for a rate of remuneration different from that laid down, in the alternative, in Article 5(5) of Regulation 1768/95 [as amended] ...
4. In the absence of an applicable agreement between organisations of holders and of farmers, the remuneration of a holder of a Community plant variety right has to be established, pursuant to Article 5(5) [as amended] ..., as a fixed amount which constitutes neither an upper limit nor a lower limit".