Daily Archives: June 18, 2010

USPTO, prior art & IP protection for plants in the US; Day #4 of the NPI meeting

The NPI week continued with a visit to the USPTO.  The building in itself started the day on an impressive note, as did the security system! The USPTO offices were built in 2005 and include five (5) buildings named in honour of important actors of patent history. 

The learning experience started at the Global Intellectual Property Academy with a general overview of the USPTOs history and function. We learned numerous interesting facts on the American history in general and on the subject of patents, i.e. that intellectual property goes back to the American Constitution written by the founding fathers.

We then spent some time with Mary Hale, supervisor in the electronic information centre, who took us through the prior art search systems. This presentation triggered many questions on the issue of the USPTO employees’ access to information and databases. Suggestions were then made by the participants concerning national databases that should be incorporated in the internet tools available to employees. It was obvious that it was crucial to them to avoid having the information on national resources overlooked in the research of prior art.

After lunch Anne Marie Grünberg, Supervisory Patent Examiner, presented “IP protection for plants in the US.” She took us through the three (3) types of protection available in the United Sates for plants: 1) the Plant Patent; 2) the Plant Variety Protection, and; 3) the Utility Patent. She then explained how and why these different protections are used. Anne Marie’s presentation and dynamism also sparked many questions from the NPI group. Questions were centered on the details of; whether it is common to apply for both a patent and PVP? (answer: in her experience, it was more common to apply for a plant utility patent and PVP) what does PVP offer that a utility patent does not? (answer: there are different advantages to these protections, for example, the scope of a utility patent can be broader, while it is less expensive in the long run to have PVP).  There was also discussion around the limitations to all these modes of protection, i.e. the farmers’ and breeders ‘exemption which does not exist under the Patent Act, while it is important in the PVPA. Personally, I was surprised to discover that research exemptions are absent from the US Patent Act, which makes the patent scope even larger in the United States. 

post written by Gabrielle Gagne, National Partner, Canada

Just to add, Hanumanth Rao had the opportunity to raise with the USPTO about the work that ICRISAT & CAS-IP have been working on with the EPO to have CGIAR materials included in their prior art searches.  See the information on the following link for more details of this: http://www.cas-ip.org/projects/cgiar-centre-publications-as-prior-art.  Minna Moezie, the Attorney-Advisor who led the day’s proceedings invited Hanumanth to contact her directly so they can consider the possibilities. — Kay Chapman