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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines patent as a ” limited duration property right relating to an invention” and trademark as a “word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” (Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?, 2016). Essentially, a patent is for an invention. The patent protects the rights of the inventor or patent holder to sell and manufacture their invention without worry of someone stealing their idea for a limited time. A trademark on the other hand is a symbol representing a business or organization. If a company patents a life form, like a plant, it means the company intends to sell the plant for a profit. Creating intelligent life forms might be another matter entirely. It would probably depend on the extent of the intelligence. Patenting genetically modified dogs would probably fine, but creating and patenting life forms with human like intelligence would a step too far. If the company couldn’t count on the protection of a patent, it would have no incentive to create the plant in the first place. Many genetically modified crops were created to be resistant to pesticides or insects. Having these resistances makes growing crops easier and more profitable for farmers. Additionally, it means more food. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), as of 2016 78% of the worlds soybean production was genetically modified (Biotech Crop Highlights in 2016, 2017). How many more people had food available to them thanks to GMOs what would have gone hungry without its production? But with patents and trademarks comes lawsuits. One example of this is Monsanto’s lawsuit of a farmer who violated their patent and a contract the farmer signed stating that he would not save seeds from the crop grown from purchased seeds (Liptak, 2013). The farmer’s argument was that the seeds self replicate naturally, therefore it was the planted soybeans that were at fault. The Supreme Court ruled against the farmer, pointing out that the seeds ” did not spontaneously create eight successive soybean crops.” (Liptak, 2013).



Biotech Crop Highlights in 2016. (2017). Retrieved 14 February 2018, from…

Liptak, A. (2013). Monsanto Victorious in Seed-Patent Case. Retrieved 14 February 2018, from…

Patent Law You Can Use, Part 1. (2017). Findlaw. Retrieved 14 February 2018, from…

Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?. (2016). Retrieved 14 February 2018, from…


Although trademarks and patents are two of the four types of intellectual properties, they each have different roles pertaining to protection. By definition, a trademark “identifies a product and distinguishes it from other products so as to identify the source of the product” (Eisenberg, 2008). Whereas, a patent is used to “permit a patentee to exclude others from making, selling, or using the patented invention and from importing the patented invention or an article made by a patented process into the United States” (Eisenberg, 2008). There are three classifications of patents: design, plant, and utility. Examples of patentable materials are chemical compositions, machines, article manufactures, and plants (Uspto, n.d.). Patent protections are limited to 15 to 20 years depending on the type that is granted by the United State Patent and Trademark Office whereas trademarks registrations can last a lifetime (Uspto, n.d.). Although trademark registrations last forever, registration is not mandatory for trademarks.

I believe that companies should not be allowed to patent a life form including non-sentient organisms such as plants. Although this question is highly debatable, no one should have patents on life forms simply because it’s a form of nature. As we all know, nature is not a human invention and therefore should not be patented. Companies are getting away with patents on life forms because of isolating life forms to create something else which isn’t found outside of laboratories (Actionbioscience, 2000). For example, when the University of California removed a cancerous spleen from a leukemia patient they were granted a patent to use the patients cell line to produce valuable proteins (Actionbioscience, 2000). The patient had no rights to his own cell line due to the patent, and his cell line is worth over one billion dollars. I believe the technique the University used should be patient versus the actual cell.


Actionbioscience, (2000). Genes for Sale. DNA patents create monopolies on living organisms. Retrieved from

Chernoff, Vilhauer, McClung & Stenzel, LLP (2008) Patent Law You Can Use, Part II. Retrieved from…

Eisenberg (2008) Patent Law You Can Use, Part I. Retrieved from…

USPTO, (n.d.). Trademark, patent, or copyright. United states patent and trademark office. Retrieved from…

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