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Patents for seeds and plants.

Plants, seeds and plant tissue cultures are now eligible for patent protection, according to the U.S. Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. Formerly, patent protection was limited to plant varieties reproducing asexually and to single, novel varieties of sexually reproducing plants. It did not allow patents on seeds and tissue cultures or patents covering a given modification in any variety.

The policy reversal came in response to a case brought by Kenneth A. Hibberd of Molecular Genetics, Inc., in Minnetonka, Minn. The company had applied for a patent on new corn seeds and plants having high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that is deficient in all natural varieties of corn. The company plans to produce corn with improved nutritional value for livestock feed.

"Novel, man-made plants, seeds and plant tissue cultures will now be accorded the same protection as live, man-made microorganisms, which were the subject of another landmark decision [by the 1980 Supreme Court]," says Franklin Pass of Molecular Genetics.

The plant patent decision is considered crucial to the application of biotechnology to agriculture. S. Leslie Misrock, the lawyer who represented Molecular Genetics, says, "Without such patent protection, the risks of undertaking plant research would be too great and the rewards too small to provide adequate incentive to pursue such research. This [decision] will transform the seed industry from a commodity into a specially products business."
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Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 26, 1985
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