Summary: The European Commission decided, on December 16, to exempt from EU competition rules standard licensing agreements for the production and sale of seed protected by plant breeding rights in France. These agreements have been concluded between SICASOV (the company which manages the plant variety rights which have been granted to it by growers situated in France) and French multipliers (which are the firms that reproduce seeds in order to meet the needs of the farmers). The exemptions will be valid until October 26, 2004. The Commission felt that even if such an arrangement limits exports , it can nevertheless be exempted because it contributes to improving the technical progress and the dissemination of new products to the benefit of consumers.

Firstly, the standard agreements contain clauses which put under SICASOV's control the destination of basic seed and technical seed. These agreements prohibit licensees from exporting (directly or indirectly) basic seeds and oblige them to "reclassify" technical seed before their export. The Commission considers that these clauses arise from the existence of the plant breeders rights and, consequently, are not covered by Article 85 of the EC Treaty on restrictive business practices. Secondly, the standard agreements...

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