Seed Patents

Seed patents are important, as seeds are owned by farmers who have done the hard work over thousands of years. However, once commercial seed industries came into existence, such seed ownership transitioned away from the local farmers, as the large corporations stepped in and hindered on farmers rights to own and grow their own crops.

Plants and seeds can be patented if they are defined by a single DNA sequence that has been created by any one person. The patent itself protects inventors, as no one else can manufacture or sell the patented seed so long as you own the patent to it. Specifically, plant breeders and agribusinesses own such seed patents. Unfortunately, this means that the farmers no longer have ownership rights over the seeds. Some of the most common seed distributors include Monsanto, Du Point, and Bayer.

The Use of GMOs

  • A majority of non-GMO seeds are patent protected for businesses so that they can recoup their investment costs.
  • Some crops can produce viable seed that can then be re-used and replanted. However, most businesses do not utilize the viable seeds. In the past, farmers have used the seeds to replant them in subsequent years.
  • Hybridization occurs when breeders take 2 related plants and mate them. This, in turn, produces inbred plants, which appear similar to the parent. The inbred plant is considered pure after 7 to 10 continuous hybridization attempts. Therefore, once the plant has become pure, you will not need to patent it if the plant or seed itself is already protected by a patent.

Benefits of Patenting Seeds

There are many benefits to patenting seeds, including the fact that, once you receive a patent on your seed, you’ll be protected from replication. Even if another breeder creates a new plant through reproduction, this amounts to infringement.

Disadvantages of Patenting Seeds

  • Many activists argue that GMO seeds are bad, and should not be used in plants/seeds that will then be sold to the public.
  • Patenting seeds prevents farmers from saving or even exchanging seeds.
  • Patenting seeds creates monopolies, which prohibits the farmers free choice of how to grow and plant. Furthermore, farmers will be pushed out of this market, leaving large agribusinesses free to determine the price of seeds.
  • Large companies who hold patents can insert genes into plants.
  • A seed itself is not an invention.
  • Seeds are continually creating and recreating itself.
  • Patenting seeds are based on biopiracy, which, in most countries, is considered illegal.
  • Patents on seeds allow these large corporations to sue farmers after the GMO is owned by such corporations.
  • Corporations will contaminate farmers’ non-GMO crops.
  • The ownership of such GMO induced seed threatens food security and biodiversity.
  • Once the corporation takes over the GMO induced crop, the corporation can obtain a patent on it, and thereby, has exclusive rights over any reproduced version of the seed. This leaves little to no ability for farmers to do their jobs. Furthermore, for example, if a corporation owns the rights to a tomato plant, any tomato plant varieties made thereafter are protected by the corporation. This will lead to a significant amount of infringement issues.
  • Corporations can charge farmer a license fee if the farmer chooses to continue growing the crop that is patented by the corporation. More importantly, the patent holder must approve of the farmer’s breeding of the crop.
  • Due to the reduced diversity of crops, the crops have little ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
  • A lot of the time, farmers will enter into written agreements with patent holders (large businesses) so that farmers can have the ability to continue growing their own crops, without having to worry about infringement suits down the line.
  • Some plant patent holders grant licenses to academic researchers, who can conduct further studies and research into the crop itself.

If you need help with applying for a seed patent, or if you need legal assistance with bringing or defending a patent infringement case on a seed patent, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.