The people behind Plant Watch want the name alone to strike fear into anyone illegally propagating plants that are under patent protection. Plant Watch began in 2005 as the U.S. arm of the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation (COPF), a nonprofit group that deals with royalty administration and monitoring for illegally propagated plants by growers who skip out on paying the required royalties for growing protected plant varieties. COPF started as “a gentleman’s agreement to grow plants and remit royalties to each other,” says Sylvia Mosterman, the executive director of Plant Watch and COPF. However, “people aren’t as gentlemanly as they used to be,” so COPF grew in response to monitor patented and trademarked plants from illegal propagation.
Plant patents, or plant breeders’ rights, as they are referred to outside the United States, are granted to “an inventor who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant,” according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Patenting a new variety of plant protects only against the unauthorized reproduction of a plant; as an extra layer of protection, a plant can be given a trademarked name, such as Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer, for easy identification by consumers. Breeders are the originators of these new plant varieties, and there are companies such as Bailey Nurseries or Monrovia that actively search for new plants from a variety of breeders to add to their corporate brand offerings. These companies usually have brand compliance rules in addition to (more…)