If you have never seen a plant patent application, there’s a lot of detail involved. This application from Terra Nova Nurseries was for a new cultivar of Echinacea, specifically Echinacea spp. ‘TNGD’ which is described in painstaking detail. The patent application was submitted May 11, 2010 and granted Tuesday (Sept. 6), so the process took about 16 months. By the way, it doesn’t appear the plant has been made available yet — it appears nowhere on Terra Nova’s website.
Grower views tend to vary on patents. Some believe that it is essential to protect your intellectual property, while others say that patents offer little protection against piracy unless you get out and enforce them yourself. If you hold patents, then you should keep track of which ones you hold, when they are set to expire, and which ones you have licensed out for use by others (and for how long). There’s even an Oregon software developer that has created a program to do all of this for you.
All of this is routine for growers such as Terra Nova, Briggs Plant Propagators or Lake County Nurseries. They are in the business of developing new varieties. But what about the small grower who discovers or develops a brilliant new selection?
What are the pros and cons of the patent process? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.