Proper Use of Trademarks and Patents

How To Use Patent Numbers

When a patent has been issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a patent number is assigned. Once a plant is patented, anyone other than the patent holder is prohibited from asexually reproducing or selling or using the patented plant. A plant patent is regarded as limited to one plant, or genome. A sport or mutant of a patented plant would not be considered to be of the same genotype, would not be covered by the plant patent to the parent plant, and would, itself, be separately patentable, subject to meeting the requirements of patentability.

A Patent Number number includes an eight-character identification that is assigned by the USPTO. Plant Patent numbers are formatted as follows:
  • Plant Patents start with PP and have at least six characters.
  • Utility Patents: Patent numbers consist of six or seven digits. Enter the Patent Number excluding commas and spaces and omit leading zeroes.

Importance of Trademarks

Trademarks provide long-lasting and significant protection for plant varieties. While patents typically last for 20 years, trademarks can be protected indefinitely, as long as the product is marketed and the trademark is enforced. 
A trademark gains value when the good or service with which it is associated is accepted by consumers, who then come to rely on the brand/trademark as an indicator of consistent quality. Trademark owners must try to ensure that marks are used correctly, especially within their own organizations.

How Trademarks Are Displayed

Trademarks should always be used with the ® or ™ symbol, displayed as superscript:
  • The ® symbol indicates federal registration of a trademark (which has significant legal connotation)
  • The ™ symbol indicates a common law mark; the ™ symbol is also used for a federally registered trademark between the filing and registration period.

Examples of proper and improper uses of plant patents and trademarks

Misuse of patents and trademarks can result in confusion for growers as well as customers who want to make sure that they are buying the specific product they want. Misuse might also lead to costly litigation.

Proper Usage:  

Apricot Drift® Rose PP23354/ Rosa ‘Meimirrote’

In this example:
Apricot Drift® is the registered trademark for a specific brand of rose
PP23354 is the Plant Patent number assigned by the USPTO

Rosa ‘Meimirrote’ is the scientific name of this specific rose cultivar

Other Examples of Proper Usage:

Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer® PP15,298 / Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’
Berberis thunbergii First Editions® Daybreak PP23747
Bigleaf Hydrangea Cityline® Berlin / Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Berlin Rabe’ PP10,912
Wine & Roses® Weigela / Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’ pp#10,772, cbr#2642

Improper Usage

‘Apricot Drift’ Rose / Rosa ‘Apricot Drift’

In this example:
There is no registered trademark symbol indicated the brand is legally protected.
Rosa is a scientific name for the genus, but “Apricot Drift” is the trademarked name

Other Examples Of Improper Usage

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea / Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’
Berberis thunbergii ‘Daybreak’
Hydrangea ‘Cityline Berlin’