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Annu Rev Phytopathol. 1999 Sep;37:29-51. doi: 10.1146/annurev.phyto.37.1.29.

FREEDOM TO OPERATE: Intellectual Property Protection in Plant Biology and Its Implications for the Conduct of Research.

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Science Advisor and Patent Agent, Needle & Rosenberg, P.C., Atlanta, Georgia 30303; e-mail:


▪ Abstract  Research endeavors are being affected by issues involving intellectual property (patents, copyrights, and trademarks). The acquisition of rights in intellectual property by universities can result in the transfer of new innovations to the private sector, with the university recouping a share of the profits for support of further scientific research. Intellectual property rights available for new plant cultivars include plant patents, plant variety protection certificates, plant breeder's rights, and utility patents. Under the patent laws, there is no explicit exemption for research use, so researchers are increasingly being required to execute materials transfer agreements to obtain permission to use patented materials, such as techniques, genes, seeds, and cell lines, in laboratory research and in breeding programs. Research scientists must educate themselves on these issues so that they can make informed decisions regarding their research practices and the licensing of their discoveries.


patents; technology transfer; variety protection

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