Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => Ingredients => Topic started by: hopshead on December 29, 2010, 06:26:43 PM

Title: Patented Hops
Post by: hopshead on December 29, 2010, 06:26:43 PM
Can anyone explain to the uninformed (read... me), how the patents for hops work?  Specifically:

1)  What exactly do the patents cover?  (only grown by a particular farmer, royalties to inventor if grown by others,etc.)

2)  How long are the patents good for?

3)  What happens when the patents expire?

4)  Cascade hops are not patented, did they use to be?

5)  Will we ever be able to buy, Amarillo, Citra, and Palisade )etc.) rhizomes?

Thanks in advance from a curious home brewer. 
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: denny on December 29, 2010, 06:39:41 PM
Are they actually patented?
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: Hokerer on December 29, 2010, 07:09:14 PM
Are they actually patented?

Don't think they're patented.  I believe the proper term is "Plant Variety Protected".  Basically, noboby else is allowed to grow 'em.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: denny on December 29, 2010, 07:57:02 PM
That's the way I understood it...proprietary, but not patented.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: Hokerer on December 29, 2010, 08:21:54 PM
Yep, here it is... 

"Plant Variety Protection: An Alternative to Patents"  at http://www.nal.usda.gov/pgdic/Probe/v2n2/plant.html (http://www.nal.usda.gov/pgdic/Probe/v2n2/plant.html)

...looks like they can get up to 18 years of protection.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: hopshead on December 29, 2010, 08:38:16 PM
Actually, Amarillo, Citra, and Palisade are patented.  I found this file with a google search, follow this link:

www.lfl.bayern.de/ipz/hopfen/10585/ihgc_list_2010.pdf

Download the pdf and go to page 5. 

This is a list of patented and protected hops from the international hop growers convention 2010.  If they are actually patented, I would think that you could search for the actual patent.  I will do this next and report back.

Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: hopshead on December 29, 2010, 08:52:55 PM
I found the amarillo patent.  I searched the US Patent Office for VGXP01.  As in Amarillo┬« VGXP01 c.v.

However, all I am getting in the search is an abstract....that is not answering my questions.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: hopshead on December 29, 2010, 09:07:16 PM
Here is a plant patent definition from the patent office, first two questions answered:

A plant patent is granted by the Government to an inventor (or the inventor's heirs or assigns) who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. The grant, which lasts for 20 years from the date of filing the application, protects the inventor's right to exclude others from asexually reproducing, selling, or using the plant so reproduced.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: Joe Sr. on December 29, 2010, 09:55:41 PM
My assumption (risky, I know) is that these patents would be similar to the patents Cargill and ADM and others have on their pest resistant grains. 

My understanding is that these are GMOs where the DNA is altered so that the seeds that they sell do not produce seed plants (thus you need to keep coming back to Cargill) and that they have also modified the base plant by adding pesticide or whatever to the DNA such that it becomes the pest resistant variety.

Thus, the patent isn't necessarily on corn seed but on corn seed that has been genetically modified in a specific way.  They further protect this patent by making sure that the seeds they sell are sterile.

It's been years since I studied up on this, though, so I may be missing some of the exact technical details.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: hopfenundmalz on December 30, 2010, 02:10:21 AM
4)  Cascade hops are not patented, did they use to be?

5)  Will we ever be able to buy, Amarillo, Citra, and Palisade )etc.) rhizomes?

Thanks in advance from a curious home brewer. 
Other questions 1-3 have been answered.
If you go back and look, many of the hops developed were done at the USDA labs in the PNW.  These became "public" when they were released to the growers.  I understand that a good deal of the funding came from the BMC's of the world, as they wanted more desease resistant hops for a more consistant supply,and higher Alpha hops.  That funding is not there today.  The hop research is done by commercial firms such as Hopunion, Yakima Chief, Barth-Haas.  Since they are investing private funds, they get the financial rewards.  This is from what was talked about at the NHC the last few years.

Amarillo has been said to be from one farm, the VG in the designation.  They reportedly found an odd/mutated hop in their field, investigated it, and then developed it for market.  That one might never be available.  Would you give it up?  There have been lawsuits over ownership of hop cultivars.  Heard of CTZ?
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: wakeele on February 04, 2012, 06:27:46 AM
Anyone know off hand what the current list of hops holding patents?
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: hopfenundmalz on February 04, 2012, 02:07:25 PM
Look under the "patent" column, and scroll down to the rows for North America.

http://www.lfl.bayern.de/ipz/hopfen/10585/ihgc_list_2011.pdf
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: nateo on February 04, 2012, 05:03:09 PM
If you go back and look, many of the hops developed were done at the USDA labs in the PNW.  These became "public" when they were released to the growers.  I understand that a good deal of the funding came from the BMC's of the world, as they wanted more desease resistant hops for a more consistant supply,and higher Alpha hops.  That funding is not there today.  The hop research is done by commercial firms such as Hopunion, Yakima Chief, Barth-Haas.  Since they are investing private funds, they get the financial rewards.  This is from what was talked about at the NHC the last few years.

Despite the BMC crowd cutting funding for basic research, there is still a lot of public money and public facilities that go into hop research. The private growers didn't get into hop research until the 80's when patent rules were relaxed to make it easier to patent and protect plants. The Hop Research Council (a non-profit that funds and directs hops research, running programs at universities all over the PNW) decided around 2000 that it wasn't in the public interest to release public hop varieties anymore. There is still a lot of research that the HRC funds: http://www.hopresearchcouncil.org/research.html, yet their research doesn't end up in the public domain anymore.

The problem with the new varieties of hops is they're not required to disclose parentage, so you have no idea if they're taking germplasms developed in public labs to patent their own varieties.

Here's some interesting articles with some quotes from Al Haunold, who ran the USDA's hop program in Corvallis. http://inhoppursuit.blogspot.com/2010/08/hoptalk-with-al-haunold-freedom-hops.html
http://inhoppursuit.blogspot.com/2010/01/part-iii-dr.html
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: hopfenundmalz on February 04, 2012, 05:46:09 PM
Thanks for the links.

I have been to the Indie-Hops blog a few times, but have not seen those 2 posts.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: nateo on February 04, 2012, 07:39:58 PM
4)  Cascade hops are not patented, did they use to be?

Here's a good article on the history of Cascade: http://inhoppursuit.blogspot.com/2010/01/cascade-how-adolph-coors-helped-launch.html
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: gmac on February 04, 2012, 09:26:26 PM
My assumption (risky, I know) is that these patents would be similar to the patents Cargill and ADM and others have on their pest resistant grains. 

My understanding is that these are GMOs where the DNA is altered so that the seeds that they sell do not produce seed plants (thus you need to keep coming back to Cargill) and that they have also modified the base plant by adding pesticide or whatever to the DNA such that it becomes the pest resistant variety.

Thus, the patent isn't necessarily on corn seed but on corn seed that has been genetically modified in a specific way.  They further protect this patent by making sure that the seeds they sell are sterile.

It's been years since I studied up on this, though, so I may be missing some of the exact technical details.



Sorry, gotta explain this one because there's a few basic pieces of mis-information in here.
Plants can and often are patented.  I am sure that these hops are patented which will provide 20 years protection.  PVP is another form of protection that is related to the breeder and breeding of crops.

The alteration of the gene to prevent fertile progeny that you mention doesn't really exist, at least not in any commercial crop.  The media called this the "Terminator" gene a few years ago to make it sound nice and scary and the technology does exist but it has never been put into a commercial product.  The reason for it is not to keep people from re-using the seed.  It was developed in anticipation of bio-pharmaceuticals and other traits that you don't want entering the food system and this prevents them from being used accidentally and entering the food system.  If you had a corn plant that produced insulin for example, you would want to control that production much differently than normal corn.  Like I said, that technology has never been commercialized.

To better explain the pest resistant corn that you mention, the corn has had genes from Bacillus thuringensis added to them that codes for the production of crystal proteins that are toxic in the alkaline gut of insects.  That is why they are so specific.  So, the "pesticide" isn't really in there but the protein that the plants produce is toxic to the insects. 

Corn is a hybrid crop meaning that if you keep the corn that you see growing in the field, you will not have the same crop next year.  It just doesn't work that way from a genetics standpoint.  Hybrids are uniform but the F2 progeny will begin to segregate based on basic Mendelian genetic principles.  Hybrids provide far more yield and better agronomics than open pollinated corn which is why everyone uses it, not because of patents. 

Regarding hops, by patenting the crop this ensures that the developers will have 20 years to re-coup their investments.  Whether or not you would ever see them on the market depends entirely on whether the developers see more opportunity for profit from broadly licensing the product or from maintaining control of it.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: richardt on February 05, 2012, 03:50:57 AM
The point of contention seems to be if we (the taxpayers on the state and federal level) are paying for the R&D on good germplasms by Public Researchers which then gets "privatized"  and "patented" by private growers who claim "proprietary" rights and won't disclose their plant parentage, then the public has been wronged.  The challenge, of course, is to be able to prove that theft, fraud, deception, etc. actually occured.  IANAL, though.

Perhaps, in the future, DNA analysis will help sort out these issues.

Generally speaking, allowing individuals or organizations to patent "genes" is a bad idea, IMO.
Genes are not "created." I have no problem with "credit" being given to those who understand pollination/hybridization/Mendellian genetics with creating new plants, i.e., with naming rights to the new subspecies.

However, it is a slippery slope from plant genetics and patents to human genes and patents.

I feel strongly that human genes should never be allowed to be patented by any individual or organization.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: denny on February 05, 2012, 05:12:55 PM
Actually DNA analysis is already being used on hops.  That's how it was determined that Columbus=Tomahawk=Zeus.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: morticaixavier on February 05, 2012, 07:03:08 PM
and segments of the human genome have already been patented.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: nateo on February 05, 2012, 07:55:38 PM
and segments of the human genome have already been patented.

Oh no it's Gattaca! Get ready for a future of stiff dialogue, furniture from Ikea, and distressingly robotic Uma Thurmans.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: tschmidlin on February 06, 2012, 07:53:37 AM
and segments of the human genome have already been patented.
The validity of a lot of these patents is in question though, so it remains to be seen what will happen.
Title: Re: Patented Hops
Post by: morticaixavier on February 06, 2012, 04:02:40 PM
and segments of the human genome have already been patented.
The validity of a lot of these patents is in question though, so it remains to be seen what will happen.

that's good to hear! Apparently there have also been quite a few patents on ancient 'heirloom' varieties of plants of late. It's big business to find a 1000 year old variety of corn in mexico and patent it. patents on plants is the worst idea ever in my opinion. without getting political it just seems a bad idea for all food (and it will end up being all food) to be owned by private individuals/organizations.