Intellectual property rights in agriculture—for example, patents
and plant variety protection certificates—are frequently used
to protect technological advances. These rights allow their owners
to exclude competitors from "making, using, offering for sale,
or selling" an invention for a limited period of time. As the
pace of scientific discovery in agricultural biotechnology has accelerated
over the past few decades, the use of patents and other intellectual
property rights to protect these discoveries has increased tremendously.
This database identifies and describes U.S. utility patents on
inventions in biotechnology and other biological processes—with
issue dates between 1976 and 2000—that are used in food and
agriculture. The database also provides information about the ownership
of these patents, whether patents are held in the public or private
sector, and changes in patent ownership due to firm mergers, acquisitions,
The database includes:
• Agricultural biotechnology utility patents
• Patent ownership information
• A system of technology classification.
See the November 2003 issue of Amber
Waves for an overview of trends in patenting of agricultural
There are three types of information available on this page.
- Overview tables (with graphs) highlight prominent aspects of the data.
- Standard tables contain commonly requested information,
in both summary and detail. Following links in the summary tables
takes the user to corresponding entries in the detailed tables.
The detailed tables can be quite large, up to 25mb; selecting
CSV file format typically minimizes the download size of standard tables.
- Custom tables allow users to search the database for specific
information about patent assignees and technology classes.
For more information about custom tables, see instructions/helpful
- Overview Chart 1U.S.
utility patent awards in agricultural biotechnology, 1976-2000
- Overview Chart 2U.S.
agricultural biotechnology patent awards by technology classification,
- Overview Chart 3U.S.
agricultural biotechnology patent awards by assignee sector and
national origin, 1976-2000
- Overview Chart 4Concentration
of U.S. agricultural biotechnology patent awards among top 10
patent holders, 1976-2000; including adjustment for mergers and
Get the Standard Tables
Search the Database
We plan to include data on U.S. plant patents, plant variety protection
certificates, and field trials for the regulatory release of genetically
modified crop varieties. Further refinement of the technology classification
system is also planned.
Construction of this database was initially funded through a research
grant by Initiatives for Future Agricultural and Food Systems (IFAFS)
to examine patterns of intellectual property ownership and ag biotech
R&D. This grant supported ERS collaboration with several other
institutions, especially with Rutgers University. In addition to
compiling a record of patent ownership based on assignee information
provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, we generated a
classification scheme to determine
which areas of technology received the most patenting activity.
More information on the database filtering
processes explains how utility patents were initially selected for
inclusion in the database.
Check the glossary for explanations
of the economic concepts used throughout the agricultural biotechnology
If you observe errors in patent classification, ownership,
etc., please write John King
or Paul Heisey. Other
feedback is also welcome.
This website is not intended as a source for official information
about U.S. patents. The United States Patent and Trademark Office
is the agency responsible for the administration of patent law.
This information was assembled for research purposes, and is subject
to further revision without notice. We have tried to minimize the
number of errors in identifying and classifying patents and in determining
the assignees of record, but errors undoubtedly remain.