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Posted : 2008-02-12 17:51
Updated : 2008-02-12 17:51

Royalties on Foreign Seed Plants Snowball

By Ryu Jin
Staff Reporter

At this season of graduation, a number of florists are finding themselves as busy as bees. But, there are some others who are smiling ``under the rose’’ -- foreign floricultural businessmen who pocket huge amounts of royalties for using their seed plants.

Roses are the most sold in South Korea. However, nearly 98 percent of the species distributed in the country are from foreign soil. So the local floriculturists are obliged to pay royalties to the developers of seed plants. A local cultivator usually pays about 1,000-2,000 won ($1.06-2.12) per seedling.

Like roses, royalties are not limited to industrial products or art works: From orchids to industrial robots, royalties cover all intellectual property.

South Korea has paid increasingly large amounts of royalties abroad since it joined the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in 2002, according to the Rural Development Administration (RDA) Tuesday.

In 2002, the country paid 1.3 billion won. But the figure rose to 5 billion won in 2004 and 12.4 billion won in 2006. Now the RDA expects that the country would have to pay about 16 billion won in royalties on various seed plants this year.

Currently, farmhouses in the country pay royalties to foreign developers on a total of 189 different kinds of plants. South Korea, on the contrary, has only a dozen seed plants, on which the country could demand royalties from abroad.

``Unfortunately, the UPOV coverage is set to expand in the coming years,’’ a RDA official said, ``From 2009, for example, the farmhouses, which raise foreign fruits such as strawberries and citrus fruits, would have to pay royalties.’’

If a customer bought a chamdarae, better known here as ``gold kiwi,’’ for 1,000 won, about 200 won of the price would go to New Zealand since the seed was developed by Zespri Kiwifruit. Zespri is expected to collect some 4 billion won from South Korean farmhouses in 2008.

``Other countries are exerting utmost efforts to develop and protect superior seeds,’’ said Dr. Ko Gwan-dal, a horticultural scientist at the RDA. ``We should also expand investment and train specialists ahead of the full-scale implementation of the international rules.’’

jinryu@koreatimes.co.kr

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