Through one-on-one in-depth interviews of Canadian public sector flax breeders, this study explores issues around Intellectual Property (IP) and Freedom To Operate (FTP) in flax breeding from a Canadian perspective. The results are supported by a scan of flax breeding efforts worldwide, an in-depth patent analysis (using Patent Lens and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) databases) and a review of varietal registrations (via the International Union for Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Variety Registration database) for countryby-country applications to national listings and Plant Breeders Rights (PBRs). The results suggest that while stronger Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) seem to hamper research in some crops, flax breeding – overall – has not witnessed the negative effects of stronger IP protection. Relative to other crops, flax production worldwide is small. The flax breeding industry itself is represented primarily by public research institutions with only a few small private companies operating in this area worldwide. Given the significant involvement of the public sector and the limited use of biotechnology, the flax IP landscape is not as complex as that of other oil crops such as canola and soybeans.
Keywords: intellectual property, freedom to operate, flax, Canada, patents, plant breeders’ rights