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Markwatch - Protecting new Plant Varieties through Patents and Proper Trademark Usage

By 2018-02-07

In response to the need for trademark usage oversight in the horticulture industry, Spring Meadow Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, Plant Development Services, Inc. and Star® Roses and Plants teamed up in 2016 to create the “competitive collaborative”, MarkWatch™. The mission of MarkWatch is to educate the industry on proper use of trademarks and plant patents in the listing of plants in catalogs, at retail, and online. The collaborative monitors the use of trademarks and plant patent information for the group’s plant brands, and provides education and information about trademark usage to the horticulture industry at-large.

An important protection for plant breeders, plant patents also provide an incentive for them to invest the time and money to innovate and develop new plant varieties. Once a plant variety is patented (or has a patent pending) that investment is returned through royalties that are paid to the owning nursery on the basis of each plant sold.
Assigning trademarked names to patented plants helps protect breeders’ investments and assists with new plant introductions. A trademark gains value when the product with which it is associated is accepted by consumers, who then come to rely on the brand/trademark as an indicator of consistent quality. Using trademarked plant names in accordance with the guidelines set out by the United States Patent and Trademark Office is the best way to preserve the value of these marks. Misuse of patents and trademarks can result in confusion for growers, as well as customers, who want to make sure that they are buying a specific product. Misuse might also lead to costly litigation.

Used properly, 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. Once a strong trademark is associated with a popular plant, its identity will be cemented in consumers’ minds for perpetuity.

It is the responsibility of trademark owners to ensure marks are used correctly, especially within their own organizations. MarkWatch was formed to assist with this process. To that end, when a garden center or grower receives a call, letter, or email from MarkWatch, it is designed to educate and inform the business about proper trademark usage.
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