Office of Research, UC Riverside
Office of Technology Commercialization

Plant Patents

What is a plant patent?

A plant patent is a patent issued for plants which has been invented or asexually reproduced, resulting in a new and distinct variety of plant. The duration of the patent in the United States lasts for a period of 25 years and protects the Inventor's (Breeder's) right to exclude others from using, reproducing and selling the plant.

What qualifies plant patents?

To qualify for a plant patent, the plant variety must meet four criteria:  New, Distinct, Uniform and Stable.
•    New:  The plant must not have been commercialized or offered for sale for more than one year.
•    Distinct: The plant must differ from all other known varieties by one or more botanical characteristics.
•    Uniform:  The plant's characteristics must be consistent from plant to plant within the variety.
•    Stable:  The plant's characteristics must be genetically fixed from generation to generation.

What are the types of plant patents?

The United States issues plant patent protection under the patent system through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) however many countries do not allow plant patents or provide plant protection.  In various countries, other forms of protection (other than plant patent) such as Plant Variety Protection (PVP), Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR), Plant Variety Rights (PVR) and Plant Variety Registration (PVR) are offered as an option to plant protection outside the United States. All of these type of protections grant exclusive rights to the Inventor (Breeder) which means the ownership and control over the propagating materials i.e., seed, cuttings, divisions, tissue culture and harvested material i.e., fruit, and foliage of a new plant variety.

The UCR Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) pursues all possible plant protection when possible.

  • Plant Patent:
    • This is the usual type of plant protection issued in the United States
    • This is generally not available outside the United States
    • This is a time-limited right to exclude others from use of and products of the new plant
  • Plant Variety Protection (PVP):
    • This type of plant protection is an alternative to the Plant Patent
    • This is available in the United States
    • This type of protection is generally reserved for any sexually reproduced or tuber propagated plant variety (other than fungi or bacteria).
  • Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR):
    • This is the type of plant protection available in Europe
    • This is generally available outside the United States where plant protection is offered
  • Plant Variety Rights (Plant Variety Rights):
    • This is synonymous to Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR)
    • This is generally available outside the United States where plant protection is offered
  • Plant Variety Registration (PVR):
    • This is a form of plant protection in order to exclude others from use of the plant
    • This is generally available outside the United States where plant protection is offered

What is UCR's Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) process of filing plant patent applications?

Before OTC can file a plant patent application, two important steps must first be met:

I.    Release of the plant variety through the 'University Release Committee'

  • The Inventor (Breeder) informs the CNAS Dean's Office of the new plant variety
  • The CNAS Dean creates and coordinates the University Release Committee
  • The University Release Committee evaluates and ensures the new plant meets scientific criteria and recommends the official university release of the variety

II.    Breeders submit an invention disclosure to the OTC

  • The Inventor (Breeder) submits an invention disclosure the OTC

III.    The Office of Technology Commercialization files the plant patent application utilizing outside patent counsel in the drafting of the patent application.

What is UCR Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) process of licensing Plant Patents?

Since the University of California (UC) is a land grant mission, the OTC seeks to ensure that California based growers maintain a three (3) year commercialization head-start in the United States as well as the rest of the world for university developed new plant varieties.
I.    Licensing UCR citrus varieties in California:

  • Licensee must be California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) approved
    • Citrus is a key plant and variety in the State of California
    • The CDFA ensures that citrus licensees in California meet certain requirements
  • In California - the OTC sends out a 'Solicitation of Licensing' to alert California nurseries/growers of a new plant variety
    • This is to solicit the interest of California nurseries and growers who are eligible, and subsequently licensed rights to the new plant through the OTC

What is UCR Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) process of Quarantine in countries outside of the United States?

All plants entering a new country must go through a quarantine process. This ensures that the new plant variety is free of diseases before it can be introduced into the country.
I.    For plant transfers from California to foreign country quarantine facilities, the following are necessary:

  • Import Permit
    • This is an official document
    • This is to ensure safety, restrict flow of, and generally to control competition
    • This is required and must be provided by the country requesting the plant
  • Phytosanitary Certificate
    • This is an official document
    • Issued by the plant protection organization of the exporting country
    • This certifies that the plant covered in the certificate have been inspected and clean
    • This is required and obtained in the United States (or the one providing the plants)

II.    The UCR Office of Technology Commercialization will execute a Quarantine Agreement with the various agencies in the countries where the plant material is being transferred to and help in quarantine

What is Test / Non-Propagation Agreement?

UCR's plant varieties are licensed in the United States and worldwide. But before a new plant variety is licensed, usually a potential licensee is interested in finding out how the new plant variety will perform in certain climates and types of soil.  Climate and soil are key factors in plants as they affect the types of diseases, resistance, yield and taste. To meet this request, the OTC executes a Test Agreement (also known as a Non Propagation Agreement) with the potential licensee as well as with research establishments (for research purposes).

I.    Test Agreements

  • Is a time-limited contract that allows for testing and evaluation purposes only
  • Propagation or planting for commercial purposes is prohibited
  • Any other use of the plant is prohibited

Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP):

When a licensee is granted a UCR Citrus License Agreement, it must acquire its materials (citrus buds) from a clean (disease-free) source as required by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The Citrus Clonal Protection Program is a California State entity which acts as the citrus hub that ensures all citrus breeding material entering the State of California is clean. The CCPP is located at University of California, Riverside and works along with and coordinates with the OTC for licensing as well as budwood cuttings.

  1. The CCPP provides  a monthly citrus budwood cutting and makes it available primarily to California citrus growers. All publicly-available citrus varieties are open to anyone, however, UCR patented citrus varieties grown for commercial purposes requires a License Agreement and must contact the OTC.  
  2. Requests for budwood is through the CCPP website:  http://ccpp.ucr.edu/budwood/budwood.php

Other:

Several Commission Boards provide support to Plant Researchers at UCR.  Here's the list.

California Department of Food and Agriculture
California Citrus Research Board
California Avocado Commission Board
California Asparagus Commission Board
California Table Grape
California Dry Bean

List of UCR's Plant Patents

CITRUS AVOCADO ASPARAGUS COWPEA TURFGRASS Grape Rootstocks
'KinnowLS' 'Steddom' 'DePaoli' 'CB 50' 'El Toro' 'RS-3'
'FairchildLS' 'Uzi' 'UC 115' 'No. 27' 'Victoria' 'RS-9'
'DaisySL' 'Zentmyer' 'F600'   'DeAnza'  
'Tango' 'Gem' 'M256'      
'TDE4' 'Lamb Hass'        
'TDE3' 'Harvest'        
'TDE2' 'Sir Prize'        
'Gold Nugget' 'Gwen'        
  'Esther'        
  'Whitesell'