Say I go to a shop and buy a plant or a seed that is covered by a patent, perhaps because it contains a patented genetic widget. I don't enter into any particular agreement with anyone, other than to exchange money for the thing.

What am I allowed to do with it, and what am I prohibited from doing with it without a patent license?

I would like to e.g. plant the seed and grow it into a plant, eat whatever fruits the plant makes, and then plant the resulting seeds to grow more to eat next year. I suspect these are all allowed because that's just what plants do if left to themselves outdoors, but I'm not sure.

I am worried I might not be able to e.g. sell my homemade hot sauce made from the fruits of the plant, or give a fruit containing viable seeds of the plant to my cousin, or root cuttings of the plant to plant all around my yard, without some kind of license to use the patented technology to produce things, independent of just having bought the original seed or plant.

Is this breakdown right? Why or why not?

  • My understanding is that without a license, no, you can't sell your hot sauce, because you can't make it, because you aren't allowed to plant the seeds. And when you get the license, it will stipulate that you must dispose of the seeds that come from the plant you grew. Which, IMHO, perfectly summarizes why agricultural patents are so monumentally idiotic. Commented Feb 20 at 18:22
  • Wouldn't you have to enter into a contract with the seller to buy the patented seed in the first place under the conditions of the end user agreement?
    – GBG
    Commented Feb 20 at 18:37
  • @GBG My question is about what happens when the terms of the purchase agreement are silent or vague as to what I may or may not do. (There might be no end user agreement, just a purchase agreement, or it might say something simple like "You may not resell this patented plant." and be silent on what I may do, while also clearly expecting that I may do something.)
    – interfect
    Commented Feb 26 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


The patent owner has the sole right to make, use or sell the invention

When you bought patented seeds, you agreed to whatever terms the patent owner offered the seeds for sale under.

For modern GMOs, you are typically allowed to plant the seeds, grow the plants, and sell the produce. However, you must destroy the next generation of seeds or pay for another license for them.

  • So would I expect those terms to be read into the contract if the seeds were sold under a contract that was silent on those points? Or are these terms commonly present in agreements of this type but not the "default" if not actually included?
    – interfect
    Commented Feb 26 at 17:35
  • Not necessarily. The patent owner can protect their rights against anyone. You may not have bought the seeds from the patent owner.
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 26 at 21:24
  • I'm assuming here that the patent owner has fully authorized the seller's activities, including authorizing the seller to actually pass on any express or implied license they are trying to pass on.
    – interfect
    Commented Feb 27 at 13:28
  • Sure, but there’s no reason that would be in the contract. My Tesla contains lots of patented inventions but the sales contract doesn’t mention them. I would need to look up the patents and perhaps Tesla’s website to find out what I can do with them. The same may be true of GMOs
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 27 at 20:15

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