When you’re shopping for your plants, did you ever notice that some of them are patented and others are trademarked. What’s the difference? Does a patent or trademark mean that these are better than other plants?
Plant patents, given to the breeder of a new plant, prevent anyone else from selling that plant or using it as one of the parents in a breeding program without permission — and without paying royalty fees, which are promptly passed on to those who buy the plants. Patents aren’t a guarantee that a plant is better, just that it is different.
The benefit to gardeners is that breeding new plants is a very long, expensive process, filled with many more failures than successes. Without patent protection, and royalties, fewer companies would take the risk.
Trademarks are names or symbols used to identify a product. The raised letters ™ mean that the designation is claimed as a trademark, and ® means that it has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
A trademark is simply a marketing tool, used to create an identification between the plant and the company. The company hopes that your previous good experience with one of its plants will convince you to buy from it again.
Theoretically, companies put their reputations on the line and have a vested interest in providing you with a high-quality, well-grown plant. They hope that if gardeners have an easier time making choices, they may find it worth the additional cost.
Paying more for trademarked and patented plants may mean a future of fewer small nurseries with a wide range of plants, and more large-chain garden centers with rows of the same plants. But remember, a lot of things can happen between the grower and your yard. How a local nursery or mail-order supplier handles a plant before you guy it makes everything else moot. Good plants come from people who care about them.