Siegers Attempts to Patent Pumpkin History

| 2/5/2009 8:49:00 AM

Tags: gardens, seeds, farms,

Painting of a warty pumpkin from the 1770s.

Figure 1. 1770s vintage painting of a warted pumpkin.

In an interesting move in the wholesale garden seed supply industry, Siegers Seed Company in Holland, Michigan has been quietly pushing an all-encompassing patent application through the system that would essentially allow them to own a piece of genetic history in the pumpkin and squash families. Siegers’ move appears to be aimed at owning the rights to virtually all warts on pumpkins and their relatives. And they want to own the rights to all patches in which warted pumpkins appear. Huh? My ancestors grew warted gourds, pumpkins and squashes long before Siegers was even in business, and they received the seed from Native American gardeners who had warted cucurbits in their patches for who knows how long.

Siegers wants to patent this pumpkin because they say it is unique and new.

Figure 2. Warted pumpkin photo included in the Siegers patent application.

The pumpkin patent application states: In a large commercial field of multiple unknown pumpkin varieties, a single fruit was discovered displaying a greater degree of warting than has ever been observed in prior experience by the inventor [the inventor is listed as the director of marketing for Siegers]. On rare occasions in years prior to this discovery, pumpkin fruits had been observed to possess rumpled or bumpy surfaces as described in FIG. 1. The discovered fruit had a high frequency of bumpy skin as described in FIG. 1, and a lower percentage of warting as described in FIG. 2. The fruit was collected and seed was saved. 

Hank Will_2
2/6/2009 10:25:13 AM

Hey Lori -- It very well may not get approved. And the company may well be aware of it. But just by filing and having patent pending on the warts, they get to own the market for a while ... since most other companies won't take the risk of selling warted pumpkins until the patent's disposition is completely settled. this sometimes takes 10 years ... so if they can own the market for 10 years on a bogus patent app, why not, right?

2/5/2009 3:46:31 PM

Hank, I can't believe this would actually be approved! Surely whoever has the power to yea or nay this would check into the history before making a decision! Of course, I have no idea how that system works.

Cindy Murphy
2/5/2009 3:39:22 PM

I remember reading about a similar such patent, (that I believe was awarded and has since expired). I can't remember the particulars - I want to say it was the first vegetable patent awarded, and I think it was for bi-color sweet corn. I remember the book though - "How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table", by Russ Parsons. A peach of a book - fascinating reading about agribusiness, the return of the local farm market's popularity, and histories of several fruits and vegetables. I very much recommend the book for anyone interested in where their produce comes from, and those interested in ag history. My husband is a market reporter for the USDA FF&V Market News Service, and I'd give him the "Produce Quiz of the Day" covering facts I read in the book. It was rare that I'd stump him unless it was something like "how many English peas are contained in a pound?" "HA!" I'd scream. (Weird form of amusement, I know.) I'll have to tell him of Sieger's plans; he'd be interested, I'm sure. It's part of his job to ensure farmers are getting a fair deal based on the current market prices. It sounds like if the patent goes through, the farmers may be getting less than a fair deal. Please keep us all posted here, Hank.

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