How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Variety Selection

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

James Weatherly, Executive Director at the Seed Innovation and Protection Alliance, published an article on his LinkedIn page, which was also recently featured in the trade publication GrowerTalks. In it, authors Weatherly and Barbara Campbell, both intellectual property law attorneys at Cochran Freund & Young LLC, in Denver, CO, outlined the most widely used Intellectual Property laws used to protect flower breeding in the U.S., the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) and the Plant Patent Act (PPA). The article covered the fact that the PPA does not include Essentially Derived Varieties, as the PVPA does, which leaves a loophole for vegetative flower breeders to use protected genetics, induce a mutation to create a new variety, and take it to market in just a few months compared to the several years it takes in conventional breeding.

You can read the full article on LinkedIn or the Ball Publishing website.

In a recent LinkedIn article published this week, Sakata America Holding Company, Inc. President and CEO David Armstrong wrote that these changes in plant breeding technology since the Plant Patent Act was enacted in 1930 could cause breeders to take the next step in seeking utility patents to protect their own genetics. Costing eight or more times as much money as a regular plant patent, a utility patent would tie up genetics indefinitely, making them unavailable for further breeding innovation.

“There is stronger plant patent protection available to U.S. flower breeders, though rarely used: utility patents,” Armstrong writes. “Unlike the PVPA and PPA, utility patents can also prevent other breeders from using the patented genetics in their own breeding programs (common practice now). Utility patent applications are far more expensive than PVPA or PPA, which would add costs for breeders, growers, and consumers. Wide application of utility patents in flower breeding could have other potential negative consequences, like concentrating innovation among fewer (larger) breeders, who alone would have the economic resources to secure the patents and defend them in court (even though this is time and money that could otherwise be directed to innovation). If widely used by major players, utility patents would be a game changer for flower breeding.”

Read Armstrong’s full opinion, “Breeding And Baseball” on LinkedIn.

Greenhouse Grower will continue to follow this discussion, and we want to hear from you. Should the Plant Patent Act be changed to include new breeding technologies? How will breeders, growers, and the supply chain be impacted if the law is changed? Comment below or email [email protected] to weigh in on this important topic.

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