The patent system has developed over many years to motivate inventors to invest in new technologies. One of the first seed patents was filed in 1935 for a new and improved variety of avocado. Today the patent system balances the interests of inventors with the interests of society at large. When a patent expires innovation benefits because the knowledge it creates can be used by others.
In a diverse economy, it is clear to see these patent models can work alongside other fields such as open source. As today is World Intellectual Property Day we look at the importance of the patent system.
But patents can cause conflicts within competitive industries too. Take the smartphone for example. One of the most famous recent battles was between technology giants Samsung and Apple. Apple accused Samsung of infringing its iPhone software patents. Their legal battles lasted well over four years.
The wording Intellectual property (IP) is itself a blanket term that describes several distinct types of intangible assets — creations of the mind — to which a person or company can claim exclusive rights. There are several forms of IP: patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets.
Patents are a ‘deal’ between society and inventors.
We have not seen evidence that IP protection has reduced consumer choice in other markets. In fact, quite the reverse: it spurs innovation, competition and consumer choice.
The patent system is open to and used by a wide range of individuals, organisations, governments and large companies. There are strict rules on the granting of patents: view the European Patent Office guide for applicants. There are also well recognised processes for reviewing patents; for example, the ability to hear challenges from someone who thinks a patent should not be granted.
Monsanto, like many other companies, operates in a highly competitive seed market and believes that the patent system fosters innovation in agriculture, contributing to more sustainable farming and more research and investment in the seed industry.
Seed patents and IP are vastly misunderstood fields. So, in the spirit of World Intellectual Property Day we ask that you submit your questions in the comments section below or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #worldIPday #WIPO
Below are more videos explaining seed patents in French, German and Italian: