Plant breeders use certificates of intellectual property rights protection as an important marketing tool. The Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is a user fee funded program that grants these certificates after careful and detailed review. Breeders of new plant varieties hold the certificates exclusively for 20 years. That benefit creates an incentive for the plant and seed industry to develop new varieties. Since 1970, PVPO has issued more than 8,700 certificates.
Sometimes offering a great service can also create problems, such as customer requests stacking up. That is exactly what happened to PVPO which found itself with a backlog of pending applications. The program took the issue head on by initiating a business process review in 2011.
Based on the review, the staff duties were adjusted for greater efficiency and hard-copy applications were moved to an electronic examination. The new structure and electronic examination format reduced application handling and followed a logical process flow that helped reduce the growing backlog.
In addition to implementing these efficiencies, this year the PVPO launched an inventory reduction plan with a challenging goal of 700 applications. With three months to go, the program is likely to beat this goal and process an additional 150 applications. That is more than double the average for the last 10 years! Even with 380 new applications, the inventory has already been reduced from 1,124 to 830 pending applications. This is the lowest inventory since 2009!
PVPO is again improving service to the plant and seed industry by developing a new customer oriented system. It will feature electronic fee payment and application filing with supporting data, analyses and the ability to submit high resolution photographs. The first phase of the project was just completed and a web accessible system for customers will be fully operational by the spring of 2014.
AMS customers and stakeholders will appreciate the new customer oriented system. This modernization effort will increase efficiency and reduce application processing time by more than 25%. “We look forward to the implementation of the changes in the program and stand ready to provide the necessary support and guidance to ensure the long term success of the USDA Plant Variety Protection Program,” said Andrew W. LaVigne, American Seed Trade Association President & CEO.
The quicker customer service, new online systems and efficient certificate turnaround time are just another example of AMS staff striving to provide the best service to the agricultural industry.