Monday, October 21, 2013
Wants to Patent Seeds
|orchid donated to Dear Rich headquarters|
So how does Monsanto patent seeds? As an alternative to plant patents, companies such as Monsanto often seek utility patents (the most common type of patent and commonly associated with drugs, machines, and inventive processes) to protect seeds. That's right, a human-made plant can be the subject of a utility patent. These are for plants that can be reproduced either sexually (by seeds) or asexually. To give you an example, utility patents have been issued for elements of plants such as proteins, genes, DNA, buds, pollen, fruit, plant-based chemicals, and the processes used in the manufacture of these plant products. To obtain a utility patent, the plant must be made by humans and must fit within the statutory requirements (utility, novelty, and nonobviousness). The patent must describe and claim the specific characteristics of the plant for which protection is sought. Sometimes the best way to meet this requirement is to deposit seeds or plant tissue at a specified public depository. Here's a good primer on plant patent protection (and here's how the dark side presents the issues).
That sounds like a lot of work. Obtaining a patent on your seeds will present a lot of expenses and hurdles so it's best not to start the process unless you're sure you can make money from your plants and you're pretty sure that you've created something new. If you're unsure, consider an evaluation by a patent attorney. Also, be aware that patent protection for seeds is not popular with everyone (particularly after this recent decision).