The Japanese government has decided to seek stricter restrictions on the export to other countries of seeds and saplings of new varieties of fruits and other plants developed in Japan.
The agriculture ministry is aiming for a revision of the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Act during next year's ordinary Diet session to allow developers to limit the areas in which the varieties can be grown.
Registered varieties are currently protected domestically as intellectual properties, but can be taken to any country or region that is a member of the international convention to protect varieties of plants.
The decision to strengthen protection comes after seedlings of a grape variety known as the Shine Muscat, which Japan's national research institute spent 18 years developing, were taken to China and South Korea. The variety has been grown in those countries and exported to Southeast Asia and other regions.
There are concerns that if the number of such cases increases, exports from Japan will drop, causing losses to producers.
The agriculture ministry says it wants to enhance the brand value of Japanese farm products and promote exports by protecting the rights of developers of new varieties and preventing them from being taken out of the country.