Trends in Intellectual Property Protection in Plant Breeding

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Speaker Bio:

James R. Myers, Professor of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics, Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

Dr. Myers holds the Baggett-Frazier Endowed Chair of Vegetable Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University where he breeds a half dozen vegetable crops. His main interests have been to improve vegetable and field crop varieties for disease resistance, human nutrition and organic production systems. He teaches a graduate course on intellectual property as applied to plant improvement at OSU.


The intellectual property (IP) landscape for crop cultivars is constantly evolving. Most plant breeders are familiar with plant patents and plant variety protection, but in industry especially, utility patents are now the most commonly used form of IP protection. Both public and private sectors are also layering contract law as licenses upon patent law. Licenses and utility patents especially restrict timely exchange of germplasm for breeding purposes. In the long run, this may retard the rate of genetic gain compared to what was achieved in the latter half of the 20th century. The public and private sectors have responded in different ways to attempt to regain access to elite genetic resources. Public breeders have called for agreements amongst public breeding program that recognize the need to exchange and use germplasm for crosses, and one group has initiated the Open Source Seed Initiative with the goal of ensuring that genetic resources remain in the genetic commons. The private sector has formed consortiums to facilitate the exchange of materials under license agreements. It is unclear whether either of these avenues facilitate public-private sector exchanges of germplasm. This webinar will provide an overview of types of IP protection available for crop plants, shifts in their use and proposed solutions to facilitating plant breeding as a cooperative effort.

Event Materials

Created by Chris Smallwood