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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart PLLC
Newsletter – Volume 24, Issue 11

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Spring into Patents: Protecting IP rights from Gardeners to Farmers

By Gregory Bussell

As gardeners prepare their soil for planting this Spring, many innovations ranging from agricultural machinery and software applications to household gardening tools will be put to work. 

The United States Patent Office is and has been crucial in protecting the agricultural-related intellectual property rights of gardeners (and farmers) across the country.  The Patent Office provides inventors with exclusive rights to encourage investment in research and development; thus, fueling innovation within the agricultural sector, a critical industry, sustaining life and providing raw materials for a vast array of products.  

Perhaps the most pivotal invention was patented by John Deere in 1865 as the Self-Polishing Plow, invented after Deere encountered difficulties with thicker Midwest soil sticking to previously used cast-iron plows.  This invention was granted US Patent 46,454 and includes a specially curved blade to lift and turn the soil that is additionally polished such that the damp Midwest soil does not stick to the blade.  

Deere’s success continued with the help of Gilpin Moore in developing the Sulky-Plow in 1875. Deere’s new and improved patented two-wheeled plow, US Patent 164,929, included a seat for farmers and attachable blades to increase the rate at which a field could be plowed.  

By the 1930’s, Deere’s tractors were the heart of innovation and included many patented technologies, such as US Patent 1,616,729 for detachable rims of tractor wheels, and US Patent 1,717,163 for a selective-speed-transmission mechanism.  

Turning to the 1960’s, agricultural revolution influenced home gardening with numerous innovations including hydroponics to provide improved growing techniques.  Struggling at-home gardeners would soon benefit from improved gardening innovations, such as US Patent 2,983,076 by Patterson D Merrill that highlights a hydroponic device with a bulb to pump liquid to seeds, and US Patent 2,917,867 by Ralph K Bailey that teaches larger scale-hydroponic growing systems.

Not only did growing systems and methods improve, but so did handheld gardening tools. US Patent 5,025,621 by Vito A. DeMarco combined five gardening tools in one to provide increased convenience when in use in the garden, via decreased storage space and adaptive use.

When improved tools fail to assist the unsuccessful gardener, US Patent 9,603,300 may restore hope. Patent 300’ by Bo Pettersson may very well save the day with his Autonomous Gardening Vehicle with Camera.  Additionally, US Patent 10,701,852 can further help gardeners restore their gardens via a weed control system that includes automatic target recognition.

These agricultural patents highlight just some of the means by which gardeners and farmers alike have benefited from patent protection.  If improved tools cannot save your garden, it is possible that a target-identifying weed robot may be your last resort.

Greg is an Associate with Fishman Stewart PLLC. Intellectual property law became Gregory’s focus due to its unique blend of creativity, innovation, and legal intricacies. Protecting the rights of creators, inventors, and businesses allows him to be at the forefront of promoting progress and innovation in various industries.

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