Plant Patents

Plant patents were first granted in 1930. The plant must be distinctly different than other varieties and can be invented or discovered. No asexual reproduction is allowed ( from cuttings, cloning etc ). You can sell the seeds, plant, plant parts. Patent length is 20 years.

In 1970 Plant Variety patents were granted to sexually reproducing new, distinct, stable plant varieties. Plant seed is now covered by patent. Patent length is 20 years, 25 for trees and vines. You can plant seeds from the plant or sell them if you decide not to use them.

In 1985 Utility patents were extended to plants. Seeds may not be saved, cleaned, planted or sold. Patented varieties must be sold using the variety name.

1994 The Plant Variety Act was amended. Seed can not be sold with out permission of patent holder.

Sounds reasonable. The problem lies with nature not recognizing property lines. If your garden is contaminated with patented pollen or seed, derivatives of those plants are not owned by you but by the patent holder.

If you don’t want to hand over your garden, your neighbor’s garden and your neighbor’s neighbor’s garden to the patent police you might want to avoid purchasing plants with patents.

To protect their patents many patented plants are now genetically modified to commit suicide. These plants will not reproduce. Sounds like a reasonable idea until you consider what might happen when that pollen mixes with wild pollen. How many plant varieties might become extinct?

You might have noticed plants for sale labeled “patented” or “trademarked” at your local nursery or garden center. Why would the nursery industry patent or trademark plant varieties?

“Plant patents or trademarks develop an incentive for creative design and innovation by plant breeders and the horticulture industry,” explained James Altland, nursery crops specialist at Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora.

The nursery and greenhouse industries have long struggled with the issue of appropriate pricing for their products, said Altland. Patenting or trademarking gives plant varieties more value in the consumer marketplace. Consumers will pay more for a product they perceive as premium.

“In the hope of financial payback, plant breeders, ranging from scientists and professional nursery people to the backyard orchardist, try again and again to breed that perfect plant,” he said. “I think patents are one of the cornerstones of capitalism. Without patent protection, there would probably be much less innovation in our economy in general, and certainly many fewer new introductions in horticulture. ( read more What does it mean when nursery plants are patented or trademarked? )

Like so much patent law of late, the problem is not with the concept of patents but with the recent extension of the patent laws that make us all criminals.

Refuse to buy patented plants from your nursery. Tell them, thanks but no thanks, suicidal plants are a crime against nature.

Tell your nursery you don’t want Monsanto suing your neighbors like they’ve been suing farmers.

Buy F1 varieties, no patents allowed, and your local wildlife will thank you.

More information:
Plant Patents

Monsanto Practices Scrutinized