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A plant patent protects new varieties of asexually reproduced plants such as roses and fruit per 35 U.S. Code §§ 161–164 (1994). Asexual reproduction means growing a genetically identical plant without the use of seeds. Eligible applications for plant patents include those reproduced by grafting, budding, or cutting. These may include cultivating different types of plants to produce mutants or hybrids and also newly found seedlings. Plant patents may not be granted for naturally occurring plants.
The letters “PP” appear before a plant patent number on a patent document found in the USPTO online patent databases locate at https://www.uspto.gov/. For keyword OCR searching by names or words of legacy plant patent before 1976, the RUSS plant patent search beta site also offers links to the USPTO site: https://historicip.com/patents/plants/search.php. Plant patent illustrations found on the USPTO patent database are published in black and white. You must visit a Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) library onsite to access color images of plant patents. Otherwise, some U.S. plant patents have been digitized and made available online by two PTRC libraries listed below.
The USPTO provides an insightful guide entitled General Information About 35 U.S.C. 161 Plant Patents.
In addition, some plants may be protected with utility patents, 35 U.S. Code §§ 111 (101, 102, 103, 112) or the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), 7 U.S. Code §§ 2321 et seq.—Plant Variety Protection Act; also see USDA site for details at https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/pvpa.
Both a utility patent and a plant patent could support the same invention, provided each patent deals with different subject matter. A design patent could supplement a plant patent if the new plant has a unique appearance. Plant patent protection lasts for up to twenty years. Richard Stim answers question: Can I Patent a Plant, Fruit, Seed, or Other Growing Thing? at the Nolo legal encyclopedia site.
The Linda Porter Rose (PP 1,507) is a distinguished example of a famous plant patent by rose breeder Pedro Dot of Barcelona, Spain patented August 28, 1956. It was assigned to Linda’s famous husband, Great American Songbook composer Cole Porter, in memory of her passing.
The following PTRC libraries provide special plant patent image databases, to access full color images virtually of some U.S. plant patents:
University of Maryland Libraries – Digital Collections
Color plant patent images back to June 2008 https://digital.lib.umd.edu/plantpatents
New York Public Library – US Patents: Index to Plant Patent Color Images
Color plant patent images from April 17, 2012 to the present https://www.nypl.org/collections/nypl-recommendations/guides/plant-patents-2012
PTRC Libraries offer plant patents to review for your research and development needs. Locate PTRC nearest you at https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/support-centers/patent-and-trademark-resource-centers-ptrc/ptrc-locations.