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Sharing the benefits of our innovation

April 26, 2013

Since launching its web-based platform “TraitAbility”, Syngenta's leadership is recognized as driving discussion within the industry to establish a similar e-licensing platform for the global vegetable industry.

Increasing profitability for smallholders

Launched in January, Syngenta’s new e-licensing system aims to transform the way the plant science industry shares beneficial innovations to improve plant breeding and meet global challenges, such as increasing demand and managing scarce resources. TraitAbility, the e-licensing platform, provides breeders and research institutes around the world with quick, easy, and cost-effective access to our patented native traits in commercial vegetable varieties, as well as patented enabling technologies. In the last 4 months, over 2,400 visitors have visited our website and recently, the University of North Texas signed the first e-license agreement through this platform to access Syngenta’s “chemically-inducible plant gene expression cassette” technology.

“Our e-licensing platform will help accelerate innovation in agriculture so that growers can increase productivity to address the global food challenge,” explains Leo Melchers, Global Head of Licensing. “We are recognized in our industry for our leadership in stimulating open innovation and collaboration. We hope that other players – large and small – will actively support our initiative or develop similar initiatives themselves.”

Since launching TraitAbility, Syngenta has engaged in dialogue with the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and other partners from both the private and public sectors. Our aim is to create new models that enable integrated solutions in an open innovation context, by recognizing that Intellectual Property (IP) is a fundamental pre-requisite of value protection and adequate value sharing.

Patents play an important role in incentivizing this research. However, plant breeders have traditionally been challenged by the complex, costly and time-consuming process of obtaining licenses to use the innovations developed by patent owners. The TraitAbility platform addresses this obstacle by providing straightforward online access to important patents for vegetable native traits and enabling technologies under fair, transparent, and standard terms. No negotiation is necessary, which reduces transactional costs and ensures fair sharing of benefits between patent owner, licensee and grower.

“To address the challenges farmers face, we need to find creative ways of sharing our inventions and making them broadly accessible,” explains Michael Kock, Syngenta’s Global Head of Intellectual Property. “TraitAbility demonstrates our belief that intellectual property rights can be used in progressive ways to share our technology more widely, and to enhance collaboration.”

All academic and non-profit organizations can make free use of the available vegetable native traits and enabling technologies for R&D purposes and can distribute the resulting products in developing countries free-of-charge.

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We organized a policy debate session in January when we launched our web-based platform TraitAbility where we asked two essential questions: “What is the role of intellectual property (IP) protection in encouraging the innovation the world needs?” and “can we find better solutions to facilitate technology access and increase collaboration?” Watch the debate video

To access our web-based platform, please visit:

Read Syngenta’s contribution “Adapting IP to an evolving Agricultural Innovation Landscape” in WIPO Magazine.

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Native trait breeding represents the latest innovation wave for the seed industry. This type of "smart" breeding involves identifying and transferring a beneficial trait from one plant (e.g. a wild relative) through crossing, sometimes supported by genetic markers. At Syngenta, multi-disciplinary teams are using the most advanced technologies to detect the genome regions underlying valuable traits that enhance yields, improve flavor, protect against disease, and provide different color or size of fruits. Scientists validate the agronomic value and performance of the identified trait components in a range of climatic conditions before they can be used in breeding programs to create varieties with attractive characteristics.
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Enabling technologies play a key role in the success of crop research and development programs. They refer to underlying technologies that enable development of plant varieties, including technologies for plant transformation, gene expression, protein targeting and hybrid development.