Four Questions with... Martin Ekvad
As his ten-year tenure as the President of the Community Plant Variety Office nears its completion, Martin Ekvad has a lot to be proud of. Under his leadership, the CPVO has been successfully implementing the Office digitalization, has managed to reduce the administrative fees, demonstrated openness towards a continuous dialogue with CIOPORA and plant breeders on the concepts of CPVR and the issues of enforcement, and, most recently, provided much-needed support to breeders during the COVID-19 crisis.
To mark Martin’s nearing departure from the CPVO, CIOPORA seized the opportunity for a short personal interview.
CIOPORA (C): Mr. Ekvad, looking back on your time as President of CPVO, what achievement are you most proud of?
Martin Ekvad (ME): Even though we have been under high pressure not to increase the staff headcount, the CPVO processes a greater number of applications and manages more titles than we did ten years ago. One reason for this achievement is our investments in IT. When I started as President, only three persons worked in the IT team and today we have an IT Unit composed of seven members and four additional outsourced IT experts. I am confident that the IT Unit will increase the quantity and improve the quality of the services we provide to the breeding community. I am also very proud to have created the IMODDUS working group which focuses on integrating Bio-Molecular Techniques in DUS testing and that the CPVO is part of the R&D INVITE consortium. This should in the medium term contribute to efficiencies and to limiting the costs of DUS tests. Lastly, I want to emphasize the close co-operation I have had with the UPOV Office during the last decade. Together we have worked with EUIPO under the EU-funded IPKey projects to promote PVP in many parts of the world and we gained an excellent reputation worldwide.
C: In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue in CPVR now that should be addressed by the Office and/or the policymakers?
ME: A revision of Council Regulation 2100/94, the founding regulation of the EU PVP system, is overdue. The revision foreseen following the evaluation of the EU PVP system in 2011 was put on hold for political reasons. It is important to address fundamental issues, such as the scope of protection, as well as formal matters; the provisions on the governance of the agency must be modernized. For clarity and communication purposes it is also important to change the name of the CPVO, which in itself requires an amendment of the mentioned regulation. The European Community no longer exists and many stakeholders, especially from outside the EU, do not make the link between the Community and the EU.
I believe that IT tools and DNA techniques must be integrated into the variety examinations more broadly and more quickly. To a certain extent, both examiners and breeders are conservative in this respect. For instance, in the ornamental sector, the use of image analyses could be developed further. This would increase efficiency and bring down costs.
C: From the CPVO’s perspective, is there an issue, option or service that breeders should be more aware of?
ME: Whilst I believe that the EU breeders, in general, are very well aware of the benefits of Plant Variety Rights and how to make use of the services of the CPVO, thanks to breeders’ organizations such as CIOPORA, many breeders still do not fully utilize the system. I am thinking of certain SMEs that focus more on the business side and less on Intellectual Property rights. There are studies supporting this view. There is also a difference in business cultures across the EU. For instance, in the Netherlands companies are very well-aware of and invest in Intellectual Property rights, whilst this cannot be said for breeders in all parts of the EU. The CPVO will need to continue to promote the benefits of Plant Variety Rights and focus on SMEs and breeders in certain EU regions.
A new study will be published by the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights at the end of the year. It will assess the benefits of the EU PVP system on the EU economy, including at Member States’ and regional levels. It will also look at how the EU PVP system can leverage sustainability in agriculture and horticulture in the context of the EU Green Deal and all relevant sustainable policies. I hope that this new study will show in greater detail the many advantages of Plant Variety Protection and that it will reach those who are not yet aware or convinced by the benefits of the system!
C: Thank you, Mr. Ekvad for sharing your perspectives. Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
ME: I am no longer young, but still too young to retire! I have been working with the EU law and policies during my entire career and it is likely that I will continue on this path. I have not yet a new employment contract ready to be signed on 1 September 2021, but I will let you know as soon as I do.
C: Please do! And we hope that your future path will offer an intersection or two where you can reconnect with IP for plants and the breeders’ community.
About: Martin Ekvad has been President of the CPVO since 2011. Under Martin’s leadership, the Community Plant Variety Rights System has consistently grown, emerging as one of the largest PVR systems in the world. Today, the CPVO's vision and knowledge about the protection of plant varieties generated over 25 years of its history are being transferred overseas in the framework of the IP Key Projects to benefit the plant innovators worldwide. CIOPORA thanks Martin Ekvad and the Office for the productive cooperation.