Topic: Propertising Plants: Judging and Abstracting New Varieties

Presenter: Hamish Macdonald, PhD candidate, TC Beirne School of Law

Advisors: Prof Bradley Sherman; Dr Susannah Chapman

Venue: Board Room (Room W353), Forgan Smith

Time: 11.30-12 noon Thursday, 10 October 2019


In Australia, newly-developed plant varieties can obtain intellectual property protection under Plant Breeder's Rights legislation. As complex biological entities capable of modifying and reproducing themselves, however, plants often prove uncooperative subjects for intellectual property law. This research explores how Australia’s intellectual property system judges, abstracts and standardises novel plant varieties, drawing on interviews with those experts tasked with administering this legal regime.

Australia’s plant breeder’s rights regime classifies new varieties of plants using the legal-scientific 'NDUS' criteria - novelty, distinctness, uniformity and stability. NDUS criteria are the key mechanism by which plants are rendered consistent, distinguishable and identifiable, and hence able to exist as standardised and stable objects within global intellectual property systems. Understanding this system entails further inquiry into how the dematerialisation of biology (through genetic technologies, representational techniques and global information systems) has influenced the form and application of intellectual property law, and how the law grapples with naturalised dichotomies of form/function, nature/artifice and phenotype/genotype.


Level 3, Forgan Smith building (#1)
The University of Queensland
St Lucia campus
Boardroom W353