Open Source is a label that is so firmly attached to software licensing in the minds of many of us that it can be difficult to think outside the box and project ourselves into entirely different areas of intellectual property. Ryann Beck has however done this with "Farmers' Rights and Open Source Licensing", available here via SSRN, as Paper 10-28 in the Marquette University Law School Legal Studies Research Paper series. Ryann's abstract reads as follows:
"The TRIPS treaty requires that WTO members offer patent or sui generis protections for plant life. Yet many developing countries oppose intellectual property for plant life because, for those nations, plant IP has proven to be financially, environmentally, and socially detrimental. The farmers’ rights movement has grown out of such opposition and is an effort on the part of interest groups and developing countries to afford subsistence farmers control over farming methods and compensation for their contribution to the world’s biodiversity. Developing nations and farmers’ rights groups have spearheaded multiple treaties aiming to curtail plant monopoly rights; however, the treaties have been ineffective and the growing strength of plant monopolies in developed countries is unlikely to wane. Meanwhile, farmers need a solution that allows them to maintain control over their farming practices, preserve traditional crossbreeding methods, and receive compensation for their contribution to the state of the art of crop varieties.
Open source provides such a solution. An open source regime protecting farmer-developed plant varieties would utilize intellectual property and copy-left-inspired seed wrap licenses to generate a pool of plant species that farmers could freely grow, improve, and market. Open source programs would further farmers’ rights by protecting farmer-developed resources from predatory monopolization and providing an entity through which farmers can share information and have a voice in agriculture-related policy-making. Additionally, open source pools would act to conserve biodiversity and promote environmentally-friendly farming by encouraging farmers to cultivate plant varieties adapted to local climates and disease instead of using mass-produced seed and treating heavily with pesticides".Says the IPKat (who again thanks Natalie Nathon for this lead), this 63-page paper comes with an appended draft Open Source Material Transfer Agreement. It's pretty impressive and deserves serious consideration. Merpel agrees, adding that the best thing about Open Source is the way it demonstrates how consensual arrangements can build on unpopular and/or defective statutory regimens in a constructive and beneficial manner.