1601 Introduction: The Act, Scope, Type of Plants Covered
The right to a plant patent stems from:
35 U.S.C. 161 Patents for plants.
Whoever invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.
The provisions of this title relating to patents for inventions shall apply to patents for plants, except as otherwise provided.
Asexually propagated plants are those that are reproduced by means other than from seeds, such as by the rooting of cuttings, by layering, budding, grafting, inarching, etc. Plants capable of sexual reproduction are not excluded from consideration if they have also been asexually reproduced.
With reference to tuber propagated plants, for which a plant patent cannot be obtained, the term “tuber” is used in its narrow horticultural sense as meaning a short, thickened portion of an underground branch. Such plants covered by the term “tuber propagated” are the Irish potato and the Jerusalem artichoke. This exception is made because this group alone, among asexually reproduced plants, is propagated by the same part of the plant that is sold as food.
The term “plant” has been interpreted to mean “plant” in the ordinary and accepted sense and not in the strict scientific sense and thus excludes bacteria. In re Arzberger, 112 F. 2d 834, 46 USPQ 32 (CCPA 1940). The term “plant” thus does not include asexual propagating material, per se. Ex parte Hibberd, 227 USPQ 443, 447 (Bd. Pat. App. & Int. 1985).
An asexually reproduced plant may alternatively be protected under 35 U.S.C. 101, as the Plant Patent Act (35 U.S.C. 161) is not an exclusive form of protection which conflicts with the granting of utility patents to plants. Ex parte Hibberd, 227 USPQ 443 (Bd. Pat. App. & Int. 1985). Inventions claimed under 35 U.S.C. 101 may include the same asexually reproduced plant which is claimed under 35 U.S.C. 161, as well as plant materials and processes involving plant materials. The filing of a terminal disclaimer may be used in appropriate situations to overcome an obviousness-type double patenting rejection based on claims to the asexually reproduced plant and/or fruit and propagating material thereof in an application under 35 U.S.C. 101 and the claim to the same asexually reproduced plant in an application under 35 U.S.C. 161.
35 U.S.C. 163 Grant.
In the case of a plant patent, the grant shall include the right to exclude others from asexually reproducing the plant, and from using, offering for sale, or selling the plant so reproduced, or any of its parts, throughout the United States, or from importing the plant so reproduced, or any parts thereof, into the United States.
As provided in 35 U.S.C. 161, the rights associated with a plant patent include the rights associated with a utility patent, and the “right to exclude” has additional terms provided in 35 U.S.C. 163. A plant patent issuing from an application filed after June 7, 1995 has a term which expires 20 years after the filing date of the application, or any earlier filing date claimed under 35 U.S.C. 120, 121 or 365(c). See MPEP § 2701. Plant patent applications will be published pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 122(b).