Hollifield suggests, particularly to custom shellers, that they might want to contact the developer of the cultivars to be certain about their interpretation of the law. “Remember that the developer is the institution that owns the patent, and not the breeder. Under the 1994 Act, it’s an infringement to shell, treat, bag or store farmer-saved seed at a quantity that exceeds what the farmer can legally save. We’ve got to get to a place to where we’re all in agreement as to what legally saved means.”

Custom shellers have a responsibility to uphold the PVPA, he says, and they have a responsibility to know the rules and regulations.

“If someone is caught violating the PVPA and they go to a jury trial before a judge, and they determine a loss to the owner of the intellectual property rights — loss of royalties or income — the judge can triple that number, and that’s how we get those large settlements, some of them here in Georgia.”

Obviously, says Hollifield, those fines are being used as a deterrent to prevent piracy of seed.

Patents, he explains, are a little more straight-forward. For anything protected by a patent, farmers may not save seed for that particular variety. Custom shellers may not shell, treat or bag seed of a patent-protected variety. Fines are similar to PVPA infringements, he adds.

Some growers have said they want to save their own seed because they feel they can grow a better product or have less costs in it, says Holliefied. “If it’s a protected variety, you’re welcomed to do so, but you need to be aware of what the law is so you don’t get into trouble.”

When you purchase your original seed, he advises, look on your bag and look on your tag. “Notification for PVPA has to be on the seed analysis tag. But the patent is not part of the Federal Seed Act, and that’ll usually show up on a separate tag, or it might be on the bag itself.”

As of January 2011, the following varieties were protected as “Patented,” meaning that a farmer may not save the seed: Andru II, ANorden, AT1-1, AT-215, AT201, AT-3085RO, Brantley, Flavor Runner 458, Florida Fancy, Florida-07, Georgia-02C, Georgia-04S, Georgia-05E, Georgia-08V, Georgia-09B, GA Hi OL, GK7-hi oleic, GP-1, Hull, McCloud, Olin, SunOleic 95R, SunOleic 97R, AgraTech VC-2 and York.

The following varieties are protected by the Plant Protection Act and a farmer may save enough seed to plant his acreage but not sell seed. Growers and shellers should check with the variety’s owner to be sure of the rules and regulations that apply to that specific variety or varieties: AP-3, AP-4, AT-3081R, Carver, CHAMPS, Coan, C-99R, DP-1, Georgia Green, Georgia Greener, Georgia-01R, Georgia-03L, Georgia-06G, Georgia-07W, Gregory, NC 12C, Perry, Phillips, Tifguard, ViruGard and Wilson.

Hollifield stresses that producers should contact the Georgia Crop Improvement Association if they are uncertain about the status of a variety. “A variety may be protected by both the Plant Variety Protection Act and a Patent.

To be safe, producers should contact the owner of the variety or the Georgia Crop Improvement Association at (706) 542-2351 or gacrop@bellsouth.net, http://www.certifiedseed.org, he says.