Searching for Beauty: How to Search for US Plant Patents

Spring is here, and since the azaleas are blooming and gardens everywhere are looking lovely, I thought I’d honor spring by writing a quick primer on searching for U.S. plant patents.  The USPTO website provides a thourough guide on how to apply for a plant patent, and this guide gives the following definition for plant patents in the U.S.:

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.

Plant patents account for only a very small percentage of total US patent applications and granted patents: in 2012, there were only 1,149 plant patent applications, out of 576,763 total applications, and 860 granted plant patents.  So where should you begin your hunt for this rare species of US patent?

Read on to learn the best search strategies for searching for plant patent records on the USPTO website and Google Patents!

Searching through the USPTO Website
Two ways that you can quickly search for plant patents on the PatFT and AppFT databases on the USPTO website include:

  • Use the Patent Number Search Form – If you already know the number for the granted plant patent you are searching for, you can simply enter the publication number into the Patent Number Search Form on the PatFT database.  Granted plant patent numbers always begin with PP, followed by up to five numbers (i.e., PP08901).
  • Search By PLT Class – The USPC system included a PLT class, which you can browse within the USPC schedule on the USPTO website.  According to the Plant Patents guide on the NCSU Libraries website, “Plant patents are classified first by type of plant (e.g., rose or conifer) and then by characteristics such as habit (shrub or climber for rose) and may be further subclassified (by color for a type of rose).”  From the Advanced Search forms in either the PatFT or AppFT databases, enter the field code CCL/ (for the US classification code field), followed by PLT/XXX (PLT classification number).  For example, to search for plant patents in PLT 101 class, enter the query “CCL/PLT/101” in the Advanced Search form.

    Use the Advanced Search forms on the USPTO website databases to search by the PLT class.

    Use the Advanced Search forms on the USPTO website databases to search by the PLT class.

Searching on Google Patents
Google Patents allows users to easily keyword search through both US and EP patents.  After conducting a simple keyword search on Google Patents, such as “Rose,” users can then select the “Search Tools” option above the results to open additional filtering options. The user can first filter by Patent Office to limit results to only US patents, and the user can then filter by “Any patent type” to choose the plant patent option.

Select to filter results on Google Patents by plant patent type.

Select to filter results on Google Patents by plant patent type.


While the USPTO website databases offer an excellent option for searching US plant patents and applications by class, Google Patents allows users to conveniently filter their keyword search results by facets like Office and patent type.  Casual searchers will benefit from using both sources simultaneously to locate plant patents by both class searching and keyword searching.  You can also rely on professional patent searchers to locate any type of patent or prior art, including plant patents, from patent and non-patent literature collections world-wide.

Do you have any tips on searching to plant patents?  Let us know in the comments!

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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