PATENT LAW AND THE PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION ACT (PVPA)
Most varieties of wheat and soybean sold in Maryland are
protected by either the U.S. Patent Law or the Plant Variety
Protection Act (www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/pvpa).
These protections provide intellectual property rights to
the developer (i.e. seed company and/or breeder) of the
variety. In addition, they either severely limit the
age-old practice of “farmer saved seed” or prohibit it
entirely, depending upon the type protection secured by the
variety’s owner. Violation of either protection may result
in financial penalties and costly litigation. The following
discusses the implications of Patent Law and PVPA on farmer
Most soybean varieties and an increasing number of wheat
varieties sold in Maryland are protected under U. S. Patent
Law that provides 20 years protection to the developer.
PATENT LAW PROHIBITS SAVING HARVESTED SEED FOR PLANTING
PURPOSES, NO EXCEPTIONS, INCLUDING A FARMER SAVING AND
PLANTING BACK SEED ON HIS/HER FARM FOR EITHER COMMODITY OR
COVER CROP PRODUCTION! Review the seed tag and container to
determine if it is patent protected. Look for the “Patent
Number” or the statement “Patent Pending”
PVPA gives patent like protection to owners or breeders
of a variety, with one major exception; PVPA ALLOWS FARMERS
WHO PURCHASED PVPA PROTECTED SEED TO SAVE HARVESTED SEED FOR
PLANTING PURPOSES ON THEIR OWN HOLDINGS. NO SALE, TRANSFER,
TRADING ETC. OF PVPA SEED FOR PLANTING A CROP IS ALLOWED.
Review the seed tag and container to determine if it is
protected. Look for the statement “U.S. Plant Protected
Variety – Unauthorized Propagation Prohibited” It is
estimated that less than 25% of the wheat varieties (or
brands) sold in Maryland are protected under PVPA.
As the demand for “cover crop seed” has grown, some grain
dealers have been selling wheat out of the bin for cover
crop planting purposes. Since most wheat varieties (or
brands) are either “Patent Protected” or “PVPA”, selling
wheat for planting purposes is in violation of one or both
of the laws. Neither citing the principle of “patent
exhaustion” nor the reasoning that “it’s only cover crop, it
will be killed in the spring” can be used as a defense to
avoid the law. Both laws are clear in defining that no
propagation is allowed.
It is illegal to label Patent or PVPA protected seed as
“VARIETY NOT STATED”, regardless of its intended use.
Companies have significant investment to bring new
technology to the marketplace. Without patent law and plant
variety protection, they would not be able to recoup these
investments. Without investment in new technology, the
access to new, better-yielding varieties would stop.