Exclusivity and Royalties
It takes several years to pay off the investment of time and materials that goes into developing new varieties. Because of this, institutional plant breeders typically seek out monopoly protections in the form of patents or plant variety protection. We release our new varieties under the OSSI Open Source pledge, so it is possible for competitors to begin offering them very quickly. I’m not opposed to other companies selling our varieties, but it is important that we make some money on them if the business is to remain viable. This is not a high volume business, so even a small amount of competition can cut pretty deeply.
Because of this, I request that competitors honor two voluntary practices: an exclusivity period and a 5 year royalty. To be clear, you are not legally obligated to honor these. The varieties are open source and there are no legal restrictions on your ability to propagate and sell them. Almost everything about this business is experimental and this is just one more experiment: a social one. I hope that most of you would not require a lawyer to twist your arm in order to see the sensibility in participating. I presume that, if you choose to offer our varieties, you would like to see more of them in the future and, therefore, agree that it is a good idea to help keep us going.
These do not apply if you are selling our varieties for food, only for seed. I recognize that the dividing line isn’t always completely clear, so just use your best judgement.
On average, it takes about three years of sales for me to recoup the time invested in producing a new variety, so I request that no one else sells the variety for that period of time. Sometimes I offer a new variety experimentally or in limited quantities before the official release. I consider the introduction year to be the year when I first offer the variety without restriction. Because I usually first offer new varieties at the end of the year, I usually add four to the introduction year to get the exclusivity period.
Exclusivity only applies in regions where we sell, which is currently limited to the USA. If you offer these varieties outside of the USA and do not sell to customers in the USA, then there is no need to observe the exclusivity period. Realistically, if you are importing our varieties legally to another country in order to sell them, it will probably take longer than the exclusivity period before you can introduce them anyway.
We request a voluntary royalty of 5% of gross sales on our varieties for the 5 years following the end of exclusivity. For example, if you sell $1000 of one of my varieties, send me $50. Look at this as an investment. You can bet that I will pay close attention to the needs of anyone who pays us a royalty. If you want access to new things quickly and want to offer them with my endorsement, 5% seems a small price to pay. If 5% is too steep though, something is always better than nothing.
There are no rules for how you go about this. You can keep detailed records or you can make an estimate. You can pay once per quarter, once per year, or whatever makes sense to you. You can pay more or less than the suggested amount or for more or less than the suggested 5 years. I have suggested what I think is reasonable, but all the decisions are ultimately up to you.
This table shows the introduction year for Cultivariable Original varieties and the year through which we request exclusivity and royalties. The introduction year is the first year that the variety was offered for sale without restriction. In some cases, we offer a variety in limited quantities for testing and evaluation before the introduction year.
|Crop||Variety||Intro. Year||Exclusivity Through