Yesterday marked the astronomical first day of Spring for residents of the Northern Hemisphere. As landscapes being to transition from their wintery roots to their springtime blooms, people around the world are enjoying the fresh flowers and scents of the Spring growing season. As you begin planting your annual plants and watching your perennial’s flower year after year, you may not know that some of them were once a patented plant or maybe still are.

The Plant Protection Act was enacted into law in 1930. The Act provides patent protection for whoever invents or discovers and reproduces asexually any distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant. Plants eligible for plant patent protection under the Act include cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, seedlings, algae, and macrofungi. However, plants discovered in an uncultivated state are not eligible for patent protection but are no less beautiful to look at.

Plant patents protect a single plant and include only a single representative claim. Similar to the rights granted to the well-known utility patents, plant patents grant the “right to exclude” others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the patented plant during its 20-year term of protection.

The first patent for a plant was granted in 1931 to Mr. Henry F. Bosenbery, a landscape gardener, who discovered a new variety of climbing or trailing roses. Mr. Bosenbery’s discovery would become known as “Plant Pat. 1.”

In addition to obtaining a plant patent issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) the U.S. Plant Variety Protection Office can protect seeds and tubers. Furthermore, depending on the plant’s utility, an inventor may be able to file for utility patent protection as well.