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Plant Breeding and Plant-Related Technology


Plant patents, PVPs, PBRs, utility patents:  there have never before been so many options to protect plant related technology.  MVS boasts a nationally recognized practice as a leader in Intellectual Property strategy for plants and plant inventions, not the least of which includes successfully handling the seminal United State Supreme Court case, JEM Ag Supply, Inc v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, which confirmed that plant varieties can properly be protected by utility patents.

MVS has decades of experience in handling the myriad of differing regimes to protect plant breeding inventions.  Clients turn to McKee, Voorhees & Sease to fully protect, regulate and monetize their plant inventions and related technologies. We offer clear, practical advice that demystifies complex plant protection regimes that are vastly different depending on the type of plant, the type of propagated material that is commercialized (sexually or asexually reproduced) the country in which protection is sought, and the particular value associated with the plant/variety (input trait, output trait, transgenic etc.). We have experience in traditional row crops such as corn, wheat, soybean, sunflower as well as fruits and vegetables and ornamentals.  Each is unique in the proper approach to protect the value in the plant/variety.

MVS serves as a one-stop shop for our clients’ plant related IP needs, integrating overlapping forms of protection from contracts such as grower agreements, breeding agreements, seed multiplication agreements, to bag tags, to utilizing the many different statutory protection regimes.  We take pride in the fact that our client relationships begin during research and development and continue throughout the lengthy commercialization process including offering regulatory counseling to allow these advacnes to proceed to market.

The firm’s proven track record of success is a product of our practitioners’ exceptional qualifications and experience. Several of our attorneys have significant in-house experience at large seed companies, including a former Chief Patent Counsel at the largest seed company in the world (at the time).  Many of our lawyers and patent agents hold advanced scientific degrees in subjects ranging from botany, plant and molecular biology to bioethics and crop science, giving us a strong foundation in an array of technologies. With years of experience as in-house counsel at market-leading agricultural companies, we know of our clients’ most critical challenges. MVS keeps abreast of every changing landscape and opportunities to protect plant related inventions including successfully obtaining one of the first PVPs issued for a hemp/Cannabis variety.

In 2018 and again in 2020, the chair of MVS’s biotechnology/chemical practice group was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to serve on the USDA Plant Variety Protection Board which helps shape the country’s IP policy for plants. We have prosecuted thousands of utility patents/plant patents/PVPs/PBRs/trademarks, drafted and negotiated over one thousand plant-related patents, and litigated plant and plant technology cases before federal district and appellate courts and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. To stay apprised of the latest industry trends, our team pursues active participation and leadership in organizations such as The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) (where an MVS attorney holds a Board of Directors position, CRISPRcon, Licensing Executives Society (LES), International Trademark Association (INTA), The Iowa Biotechnology Association, and the Iowa Agritech Accelerator.

Services include:

  • Utility and plant patents for plant varieties in the United States and foreign jurisdictions
  • Plant Variety Protection and Plant Breeder’s Right for sexually and asexually produced plants
  • Utility patents for intercrossed traits both through breeding and gene editing/transformation
  • inPatentability searches and opinions
  • Freedom-to-operate analysis
  • Due diligence for mergers and acquisitions
  • Invention disclosure vetting and analysis
  • Competitive landscape audit
  • License agreement structuring, drafting and negotiation
  • Seed development agreements (for producing and selling seed, bag tag licenses, breeding, and licensing to farmers)
  • Infringement litigation for plaintiffs and defendants
  • Trademark/branding protection and counseling
  • Portfolio planning and management
  • Regulatory counsel
  • Labeling
  • Compliance
  • Marketing authorization
  • FDA approvals and product definition
  • USDA approvals
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Regulatory Data Analysis
  • GMP (good manufacturing practices)
  • GLP (good laboratory practices)
  • Reporting requirements


  • Lead Counsel in the seminal United States Supreme Court case Pioneer v. J. E. M. Ag Supply, 534 U. S. 124 (2001), which confirmed the availability of utility patent protection for crops and other sexually reproducing plants, despite the existence of Plant Patent Act and the Plant Variety Protection Act.
  • Prepared and prosecuted U.S. patent number 6,136,320, VACCINES EXPRESSED IN PLANTS, for ProdiGene, Inc.
  • Prepared and prosecuted S. patent number, 10,308,947, METHODS AND COMPOSITIONS FOR MULTIPLEX RNA GUIDED GENOME EDITING AND OTHER RNA TECHNOLOGIES for Dr. Yinong Yang from the Pennsylvania State University.
  • Worked with New West Genetics to apply for one of the first PVP Certificates for AOSCA-certified hemp seed variety approved for by the 2018 Farm Bill.

Plant Breeding and Plant-Related Technology Team

Heidi Sease Nebel

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Jill N. Link, Pharm.D.

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Christine Lebron-Dykeman

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Charles P. Romano, Ph.D.

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Cassie J. Edgar

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Sarah M.D. Luth

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Brian D. Keppler, Ph.D.

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Julie L. Spieker

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Melissa M. Mitchell

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Jacob S. Blackford

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Shireen K. Bhatia

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