What legal protections against theft of varieties are available to the plant breeder?
Plant variety protection (similar to a patent) may be obtained by applying to the US Department of Agriculture. The USDA offices accepts applications and reviews them for completeness, but full approval may be a lengthy process. Plant variety protection is one method by which the breeder may recoup the investment in developing an inbred line. However, there is a risk that the seeds or inbred line might be stolen in the interim. A more immediate method of protection and risk reduction is to have contractual agreements and controls over the seed growers. If a plant breeder has a developed an inbred line with unique properties, it is also possible to apply for a patent.