As prescribed in the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets and CIMMYT’s Policies on Intellectual Assets Management, CIMMYT manages most results of Research and Development (Intellectual Assets) as International Public Goods. When, as a strategy for the management of Intellectual Assets to increase scale and scope of impact, there is an exception to the rule, CIMMYT follows the criteria outlined in these policies. Further, CIMMYT publicly discloses key non-confidential information (public disclosures) about those transactions, as well as the measures that are taken to guarantee alignment with CIMMYTs and CGIAR mission and vision.
With the aim of standardization and transparency, CIMMYT has created different treatments and rules for the different strategies for management of Intellectual Assets. Those categories and subcategories adhere to the rules in the Policies referred above for Limited Exclusivity Agreements (LEAs), Restricted Use Agreements (RUAs), and Intellectual Property (IP) applications. Those strategies also consider the type of technology/Intellectual Asset and the stage of development at which the Intellectual Asset is. Those rules are grouped as follows.
Partnerships for research
CIMMYT enters into partnerships (with the public and private sector) to create synergies and catalyze R&D by enhancing the capacity, speed, or quality with which its research results can be developed or disseminated, to improve livelihoods and promote food security, poverty reduction, and sustainable development.
Partnerships for research mainly focus on creating synergies to improve, test and/or validate an innovation, or maximize global accessibility and ensure the broadest possible impact on target beneficiaries, while providing an incentive to partners to enter into those collaboration relationships. These incentives often require CIMMYT using strategic management of Intellectual Assets, through exceptions to the rule of managing Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods, in terms of the CGIAR and CIMMYT Policies. Those exceptions can include either one or a combination of the following:
- Limited commercial exclusivity of certain Intellectual Assets in “Limited Exclusivity Agreements” (“LEA”).
- “Restricted Use Agreements” (“RUA”), that allow incorporation of Partner’s Intellectual Assets with restrictions to use and/or disseminate some R&D results.
- The strategic and prudent pursuit of Intellectual Property Rights (as patents, plant variety protection, utility models, design registration, trademarks, copyrights, and database protection), whether directly or authorizing a third party to request such exclusive right.
When entering into a partnership that includes one or more of the elements above, CIMMYT adheres to the following principles:
- Agreed restrictions with partners are always as limited as possible in duration, territory, and/or field of use.
- All partnership agreements include clauses to ensure availability for non‐commercial research conducted by public sector organizations (research exemption) and clauses to ensure availability in the event of a national or regional food security emergency (emergency exemption).
- When the Intellectual Asset derives or includes plant genetic resources that are subject to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (whether because they are in trust materials, or they were received under a Standard Material Transfer Agreement under said Treaty: (i) partnerships are structured in a way that guarantees free and unlimited access to in trust materials and (ii) all relevant obligations, including benefit-sharing obligations, are passed to the partner(s).
- When applicable, partnerships include commitments and responsible parties for complying with national laws and regulations (including on Biosafety);
- The scope and structure of the restrictions are standardized, in three different groups: Restrictions based on stewardship requirements; Creation of synergies through market segmentation; Access to third-party technology.
Restrictions based on stewardship requirements
Legal and responsible use of certain Intellectual Assets requires compliance with specific conditions, for example, gene edited or transgenic Intellectual Assets whose use would be regulated through national biosafety law and CIMMYT Policies. CIMMYT gives access to those Intellectual Assets when the local legislation allows it, and the Partner demonstrates compliance with CIMMYT relevant Policies. Also, CIMMYT makes available any other associated Intellectual Assets that is not regulated under those standards and, when possible, builds or increases the capacity of Partners so they can satisfy the necessary requirements.
When the technology subject to stewardship requirements belongs to, is developed or controlled by a partner, CIMMYT agrees on the roles and responsibilities, as well as the dissemination strategies for those Intellectual Assets on a case-by-case basis. Those parameters are always within the framework of existing laws and regulations, target geographies intended for each project, and consider available financial resources to manage any biosafety risk adequately.
Partnerships that fall within this category are in the following research projects:
Creation of synergies through market segmentation
In many cases, partnerships involve a range of different contributions from CIMMYT and its partners, including (i) providing access to existing technologies (proprietary Intellectual Assets), (ii) collaboration for the improvement of existing, or development or new Intellectual Assets and (iii) financial resources that one or the two partners contribute to cover the cost of implementing the agreed R&D activities.
In most of those cases, these type of partnerships involves a combination of exceptions to the management of Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods (LEAs, RUAs and IP applications), because of the access CIMYT receives to technologies (Intellectual Assets) and resources, and the ability it gains to deploy new Intellectual Assets in CIMMYT target geographies. In other words, the Intellectual Assets generated in this type of partnerships have different potential markets and therefore, can be split among partners with different interests, through market segmentation. CIMMYTs priority in those cases is to gain ability to (i) use or incorporate proprietary technology that supports the (further) development of Intellectual Assets that serve as vehicle to improve livelihoods and promote food security, poverty reduction, and sustainable development and (ii) disseminate resulting Intellectual Assets in CIMMYT target regions and/or beneficiaries.
Partnerships that fall within this category are in the following research projects:
- Hybrid Wheat and Wheat Heterosis
- Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) umbrella agreement
- Enhancing Fusarium and rust tolerance in Canadian durum wheat (EFRT), Collaboration Agreement
- Umbrella Agreement and License for the development of the integration of KDXplore into the Enterprise Breeding System. The Enterprise Breeding System intends to be a tool (targeted for the adoption of the CGIAR Centers) to effectively carry out the breeding cycle, considering genealogy, phenotyping, and inventory management. Current efforts focus on (i) integrating identified breeding informatics tools through standard data interfaces to allow data exchange among existing applications, and (ii) developing additional components to existing identified tools, to improve functionality.
Access to third-party technology to achieve CIMMYT’s mission
When CIMMYT access to third-party proprietary technology, in some cases, it is required to agree on restricting the global accessibility of the products/services resulting from the use of such Intellectual Assets for commercialization, research, and development (RUAs). CIMMYT usually enters into these type of agreements (that do not combine a broader ability to disseminate results, by creating synergies through market segmentation), to test technologies for which there is no certainty yet of whether or not they can be successfully integrated into further research activities. Therefore, CIMMYT needs to assess the suitability of the technology before investing substantial resources or developing a plan for dissemination of potentially resulting Intellectual Assets.
In those cases, because the license to access those Intellectual Assets are normally granted free of charge and the tests conducted are limited to their potential to be successfully integrated into a project, CIMMYT usually agrees with the partner to provide the results of the evaluation in exchange of being able to publish those results in aggregate. This scheme allows CIMMYT to disseminate the lessons learned during that testing, that could be useful with any similar technology, at no cost, in exchange of providing data to the partner that could serve them for the improvement of their technology.
If the technology proves to have the potential for successful integration into CIMMYT R&D activities, CIMMYT negotiates with the partner a license that allows broader dissemination of any products that could be developed as part of R&D activities, through market segmentation.
Partnerships that fall within this category are for the following technologies:
- High phytase wheat germplasm, being tested as part of the experimental activities of HarvestPlus.
Germplasm product allocation
This allocation and the limited exclusivity that CIMMYT grants as part of this dissemination strategy, is necessary to incentivize public and private seed organizations to invest in the commercialization process to achieve a competitive advantage in one or more developing countries. Through this system, partners are incentivized invest the funds required to release, multiply and commercialize improved hybrids and undertake appropriate quality control. By allocating a substantial number of genetically diverse hybrids to a variety of seed producers, every licensee is incentivized to invest in its portfolio. This approach particularly helps smaller- and medium-sized seed companies that cannot afford their own breeding programs and thereby enables a wider range of development partners, especially seed companies, to deploy genetically diverse, elite hybrid varieties to farmers in multiple agro-ecologies. In sum, without some vehicle for dissemination, CIMMYT-developed hybrids will not reach target beneficiaries to the same extent.
Accordingly, limited exclusivity for commercialization promotes the dissemination of CIMMYT’s improved varieties to, and adoption by, farmers in targeted developing countries who otherwise would not benefit from them. Further, CIMMYT grants permission to register and commercialize an improved line or hybrid, subject to those specified countries’ own laws and regulations for registration and commercialization. Therefore, the primary aims of the product allocation process (maize or wheat) are to ensure that (i) CIMMYT can make the seed of its improved maize and wheat available and accessible to smallholder farmers, and (ii) a variety of capable seed producers is involved in the process.
CIMMYT reviews allocation requests and, based on a number of factors, determines whether it will allocate the requested products to a particular partner. Those factors include but are not limited to:
- Investment by the applicant in variety testing and seed production.
- The likelihood that seed will become widely available to smallholder farmers.
- The likelihood that seed will become widely available as soon as possible.
- Diversity among suppliers.
- The diversity of regions where the variety will be marketed.
- Track record as a CIMMYT collaborator.
- The relative importance of a variety for the variety portfolio or success of an applicant.
CIMMYT selects or approves the allocation to a particular partner and grants commercialization rights using a license agreement. This agreement details the terms and conditions under which the line or hybrid is licensed for registration and commercialization–in a limited geographic area, for a limited period. Although CIMMYT may allocate the same wheat line or maize hybrid to the same or different partners in two countries, for example, CIMMYT will not knowingly allocate the same wheat line or hybrid to two different partners for the same country.
Importantly, and at the same time, CIMMYT maintains a balance between the limited exclusivity granted under this license agreements and the public availability of research results, furthering both the CIMMYT and CGIAR mission and vision, according to the following:
- CIMMYT reserves the right to use and disseminate under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement, to anyone worldwide. In the case of hybrid maize, the parental lines and hybrids for research, breeding and training (without disclosing any parental line combinations). In the case of wheat, the same lines for research breeding and training.
- The license agreements include rights and obligations emphasized by the Multilateral System (MLS) origin of genetic resources used in the development of the hybrid or the wheat line.
- Research and emergency exemptions of the CGIAR Intellectual Assets Principles are expressly included in the license agreement template.
- The term is limited in each license. For maize, it is granted for five years, renewable for another five years if the partner can demonstrate in the initial term the successful commercialization of the hybrid(s), or satisfactory potential to achieve it during the extended term. If a partner cannot demonstrate diligence, CIMMYT may terminate the license and, if commercialization potential for the subject hybrid(s) continues to exist, re-allocate and license the hybrid(s) to another partner in the original partner’s specified countries to ensure availability of the improved hybrid(s) to CIMMYT target beneficiaries. For wheat, it is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
- When possible, CIMMYT makes available, in the same region, multiple varieties or hybrids with similar functional characteristics as to performance and/or resistance to stresses.
- CIMMYT summarizes and makes available globally the performance data of all hybrids, with no link to partners that commercialize these hybrids.
CIMMYT deliberately promotes diversifying allocation of hybrids to public and private sector partners of all sizes and scale-up capacities. CIMMYT also works with National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and seed companies to build capacity for registration and successful commercialization of new CIMMYT-derived varieties and hybrids in target geographies.
Additionally, by making this process transparent, CIMMYT prevents companies from wasting resources to pursue the registration of the same hybrid under a different name in a particular country, in contravention to countries own laws and regulations.
This license agreement template is used to allocate elite CIMMYT-derived maize hybrids for commercialization. The template is suitable for use within or outside of a project resulting in the allocation of CIMMYT-derived maize hybrids.
In 2017, CIMMYT began to use a template consistently for licensing its allocated hybrids in Africa. This template includes rights and obligations emphasized by the Multilateral System (MLS) origin of genetic resources used in the development of the hybrid. In 2018, CIMMYT also began to use this template consistently in Asia, and in 2019, introduced it for use in Latin America.
The hybrid allocation process
The allocation process begins when CIMMYT posts a call for applications — open to both public and private sector institutions — to allocate available CIMMYT-derived hybrids. Such calls are widely advertised through (i) CIMMYT’s website, (ii) regional networks in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and (iii) CIMMYT emails to over 250 public and private sector partner organizations. By the time CIMMYT posts the call, many potential partners already have received CIMMYT germplasm under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement, and have multiplied and used it in research and breeding, and have evaluated its potential. Once a call for applications is posted, the potential partners apply for (i.e., request) allocation of one or more particular hybrids. Applications are evaluated according to the Product Allocation Principles, as further explained within the call for applications.
Following the allocation process, under this license agreement with the licensee partner, CIMMYT identifies the (confidential) parental line combination(s) necessary for production, registration, and commercialization of one or more specified CIMMYT-derived hybrids, limited in time (5 years) and geographic scope (“specified countries”). CIMMYT allocates and licenses each hybrid at no cost to the partner.
Exclusivity is limited to five years so that if the partner is not diligently pursuing commercialization of the hybrid, CIMMYT may terminate the agreement and re-allocate rights to another partner that will do so. Territory exclusivity is limited to a particular country, or countries, with particular hybrids. Further, exclusivity is limited to commercialization activities; CIMMYT maintains the freedom to use the same hybrid, for non-commercial research, breeding and training activities, and to allocate it, with the same rights, to different organizations for semi-exclusive commercialization in other countries. Parental lines also remain available to third parties.
CIMMYT allocation and licensing in 2017
Number of hybrids for which permission to register for commercialization was granted as follows:
Geographical scope for the same licenses is summarized in the table below:
CIMMYT allocation and licensing in 2018
In Africa, CIMMYT announced 43 new, elite hybrids available for allocation in 2018, in addition to the hybrids released in past years. CIMMYT received 445 applications (requests) for allocation (one application = one request to license a specific hybrid in a specific country by a specific organization). Among these, CIMMYT approved 35 percent, resulting in the execution of 38 licenses for semi-exclusive commercialization of one or more hybrids in one or more countries.
Among the allocations in Africa, about 89% went to small, medium and large private sector companies, 8% went to public sector organizations, and 3% went to parastatal organizations (i.e., organizations owned or controlled at least partially by the government).
CIMMYT licensed 1 hybrid per partner (24%), 2-3 hybrids per partner (45%), 4-5 hybrids per partner (18%) and more than 5 hybrids per partner (13%). Reasons for allocating multiple hybrids are due to (i) lack of other requests for such hybrids in a given country or (ii) hybrids being of different adaptation or maturity.
As for territorial scope, CIMMYT allocated/licensed one or more hybrids in 1 country, representing 47% of the 38 licenses granted; 2-3 countries, representing 24%; 4-5 countries, representing 16%; and more than 5 countries, representing 13%. Reasons for allocating multiple hybrids are due to (i) lack of other requests for such hybrids in a given country or (ii) hybrids being of different adaptation or maturity.
In Asia, CIMMYT announced 24 new, elite hybrids available for allocation in 2018, and received 44 applications (requests) for allocation. Among these, CIMMYT approved 39%, resulting in the execution of 15 licenses for semi-exclusive commercialization of one or more hybrids in one or more countries.
Among the allocations in Asia, 55% of hybrids went to private sector companies, 42% went to public sector organizations, and 3% went to parastatal organizations.
As shown in the diagram below, CIMMYT allocated/licensed: 1 hybrid per partner, representing 33% of the 15 licenses granted; 2 hybrids per partner, representing 27%; 3 hybrids per partner, representing 33%; and 4 hybrids per partner, representing 7%.
CIMMYT distributes wheat lines under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (“SMTA”) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the “Treaty”) for research, breading and training. Those lines always remain available as International Public Goods through CIMMYT germplasm bank, with ability to distribute all around the World.
In some cases, an entity that tests different lines publicly released by CIMMYT, or as a result of a collaborative work in a project, a public or private institution can become interested in a particular line for commercialization in a given country. In those cases, partners express their interest to CIMMYT and, CIMMYT, using the criteria outlined for product allocation, makes a decision. Additional elements that CIMMYT considers in assessing the request for wheat lines include:
- Whether the request is to register for commercialization (according to country laws and regulations) or to request plant breeder’s rights.
- The country for which the partner requests authorization to commercialize. For requests to obtain plant breeder’s rights, priority is given to requests for geographies that are not CIMMYT target or priority for dissemination, for example, high income countries;
- Ability to generate a benefit for CIMMYT target beneficiaries, as a way to increase scale and scope of impact. For example, the possibility for CIMMYT to access and release performance data of CIMMYT developed lines in certain environments where CIMMYT could not conduct the testing itself and when such data could be useful for different regions of the world, with similar environmental conditions. Another example would be the generation of an income for the Multilateral System of the Plant Treaty that under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement will not be produced, in addition to support of CIMMYT breeding efforts.
Allocation of wheat varieties has taken place in the following cases:
As part of a collaboration relationship between Agrovegetal and CIMMYT, Agrovegetal has a non-exclusive access to advanced wheat lines that could be suitable for climate conditions in Spain. Agrovegetal will conduct further breeding efforts with those lines, through various growing and testing cycles and, as a result, it may select and stabilize some of those lines for later commercialization (limited to Spain). Agrovegetal may register some of those lines for commercialization (registration that does not provide an exclusive Intellectual Property Right) or ask for plant breeders rights. Up to date, Agrovegetal has not requested authorization to apply for Plant Breeders Rights over any line developed by CIMMYT.
Rebel Seeds in Australia
In 2012, CIMMYT began the distribution of Borlaug 100, an improved wheat variety developed by CIMMYT. This variety was developed targeting particular “mega environment” conditions which include India’s Gangetic Valley, the Indus Valley in Pakistan, the Nile Valley in Egypt, and the Yaqui Valley in Mexico. Borlaug 100 is currently available as an international public good through at least 14 of its international nurseries with distribution in at least 80 countries including China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.
Following an expression of interest by a company in Australia to commercialize Borlaug 100, CIMMYT tailored a dissemination strategy for the Australian market: the partner is permitted to apply for plant variety protection (“PVP”) to commercialize this variety in Australia, while CIMMYT continues to make the variety available worldwide – including in Australia – as an international public good for non-commercial research, breeding and training in food and agriculture. CIMMYT may also make the variety available for commercial purposes in any country outside of Australia.
In developing this strategy CIMMYT undertook a thoughtful evaluation of the CGIAR and CIMMYT Policies as well as circumstantial factors including: lack of conflict with CIMMYT’s focus regions, increased distribution, continued performance improvement from data obtained, and a new funding stream from a high-income, developed country. Further, CIMMYT considered that plant varieties subject to PVP in most countries, including Australia, are nevertheless available for research and breeding pursuant to a so called ‘breeders exemption’ and so do not trigger the monetary benefit sharing obligations imposed under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement of the Treaty. Because Borlaug 100 was developed from genetic resources held in-trust for the benefit of the international community, under the current arrangement the partner will make annual contributions to the Treaty’s benefit-sharing fund. As consequence, this dissemination model supports both the benefit-sharing fund of the Treaty, and furthers the CGIAR Vision, with continued impact on resource-poor farmers in developing countries.