Plant patents: A potentially extinct variety
Plant patents serve a definite purpose for the horticulture industry. To this end, their continued existence is justified.
The great hopes for agriculture have not been realized, possibly by the illogical exclusion of the potato, one major economic plant otherwise within the scope of the Act, and possibly by the judicial exclusion of bacteria, the use of which in acetone fermentation was a once significant consumer of agricultural products.
The plant patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from selling, using, and asexually reproducing the protected variety.
A few major nations have adopted this American innovation. Many prefer a second form of protection: Breeder’s Rights. Lack of international homogeneity is characteristic of national patent laws.
The full taxonomic spectrum of potential coverage has not been utilized, 75% of the varieties being Rosaceae.
The emphasis has been on ornamentals rather than varieties (other than fruits) with agricultural or industrial impact. The United States Department of Agriculture has been active in the latter endeavors and has a policy of not patenting plant material. Little change can be expected.
University and industrial organizations have little utilized a possible opportunity.
The existing law should be retained and perhaps broadened to include bacteria and potatoes.
Thomas Jefferson once summarized: “The greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” The incentive for this addition should be retained.
KeywordsEconomic Botany Asexual Reproduction Patent Protection Jerusalem Artichoke Patent System
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