Depositing seeds for patent applications – how many is enough?

Patents offer assignees exclusive rights to their inventions in exchange for detailed disclosure. A detailed description with drawings meets this requirement for many inventions, but in the case of inventions that are, or require the use of biological material, a detailed disclosure involves the deposit of this material in a recognised institution, from where samples can be requested. NCIMB is such a recognised institution and holds the status of International Depositary Authority (IDA) under the Budapest Treaty. We store patent deposits of bacteria, fungi, bacteriophages, plasmids, plant cell tissue culture and plant seeds.

So how many seeds should be deposited when a patent application is made? It is important that enough seeds are made available to furnish any requests that may be made, taking into account the likelihood of a reduction in the germination rate of stored seeds over time.

A minimum of 250 seeds is required for an initial deposit, and while the US Patent and Trademark Office requires a minimum of 2500 seeds to be deposited prior to the issue of a patent, the International Board of Genetic Resources recommends a minimum of 4000 seeds for long term storage.

A germination rate of at least 85% is normally required, but deposits may be accepted in certain circumstances where this is impossible to achieve.

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Published: 03 Dec 2019