Plant Patents

Protections are legislated in the Plant Patent Act (PPA), enacted in 1930, and administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

  • Protection lasts for 20 years and gives inventors the right to prevent others from reproducing, selling, or using the plant.
  • Covers distinct and new varieties of asexually reproduced plants (other than tuber propagated plants or plants found in an uncultivated state).
  • The plant must be distinct from other plants, which usually means it has one or more characteristics that distinguish it from other plants. Characteristics range from habit, method and ease of reproduction, color of flowers, stems, leaves, flavor, etc.
  • One important component of the patent application is that the description of the plant must as complete as reasonably possible; to aid in this, pictures are usually included as part of the application and the final patent.
  • Protection is limited to a plant in its "ordinary meaning", which includes the following:
    • A living plant organism which expresses a set of characteristics determined by its single, genetic makeup or genotype, which can be duplicated through asexual reproduction, but which can not otherwise be "made" or "manufactured."
    • Sports, mutants, hybrids, and transformed plants are comprehended; sports or mutants may be spontaneous or induced. Hybrids may be natural, from a planned breeding program, or somatic in source. While natural plant mutants might have naturally occurred, they must have been discovered in a cultivated area.
    • Algae and macro fungi are regarded as plants, but bacteria are not.

(The above information comes from the USPTO webiste, What is a plant patent?)

Applying for a Plant Patent

  • See the USPTO's pages for details about submitting an application for a plant patent.
  • Illustrations of the plant are required, including color illustrations if color is one of the distinguishing features of the plant.
  • Unlike utility patents which allow more then one aspect of a plant to be patented, only one patent is allowed for a plant patent as it applies to the entire plant.

Searching for Plant Patents

  • Plant patents always begin with the letters PP, followed by up to 5 numbers.
  • Browse the PLT Class for plant patents.
  • Plant patents are classified first by type of plant (e.g., rose or conifer) and then by characteristics such as habit (shrub or climber for rose) and may be further subclassified (by color for a type of rose).
  • If you know the patent number you can enter that into the USPTO's patent number search screen or Google Patents Advanced Search.

Accessing Plant Patent Photographs

The library holds print photograph copies of plant patents.

  • Each patent includes a description of how the plant was propagated, color photographs showing detailed views of the plant and its fruit, blossoms, etc., as well as references to related patents.
  • Print plant patents can be requested by patent number by emailing the PTRC representative, Greg Tourino.