Can a plant be patented?

Historical Interest in Plants Read more from
Chapter Plant Diversity

New kitchen gadgets aren’t the only things that need a patent; living plants are also patented. The first patent in the United States was received by Henry F. Bosenberg, a landscape gardener: U.S. Plant Patent no. 1 was given on August 18, 1931 for a climbing or trailing rose. And plenty more have been patented since: Between 1977 and 2011, just over 8,500 plant patents were granted to inventors (California and Florida with the most patents); worldwide, including the U.S., 18,376 plant patents were granted.

The plant patent inventors—growing plants from cucumbers to hydrangeas— have to follow certain criteria. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the inventor “has to have invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant (not including a tuber-propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state).” The grant lasts for twenty years and protects the inventor’s rights by stopping others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the plant so reproduced. Interestingly enough, according to the patent office, algae and macro fungi are considered plants, but bacteria are not!


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