Enhancing Collaboration Between USDA and USPTO

On July 9, 2021, President Biden issued a historic Executive Order titled “Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” creating a whole-of-government approach to competition and includes initiatives across federal agencies to tackle some of the most pressing issues in our economy. Among other things, the Executive Order directs the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to outline concerns and strategies for ensuring “that the intellectual property (IP) system, while incentivizing innovation, does not also unnecessarily reduce competition in seed and other input markets beyond that reasonably contemplated by the Patent Act.” 

Many plant breeders rely on intellectual property protection as a cornerstone of their business. The USPTO administers the U.S. Patent Act and issues patents for new inventions in all areas, including agriculture-related technologies. The USDA administers certificates under the Plant Variety Protection Act that grant breeders exclusive rights to new plant varieties.

However, not all plant breeders seek intellectual property protection. It is essential that all those who create and depend on agricultural innovations, and not only those who seek protection, have access to a transparent and fair intellectual property system and a voice in the policy setting that affects their livelihoods.  

This collaboration between the USDA and USPTO draws on our common goals of protecting intellectual property rights while bringing technical expertise from each agency to help provide growers with the choices they need to be successful.