The sole ground upon which the modern patent systems of, our own and other countries stand, is the right of the inven I tor to share more largely than any other individual in the benefits of his invention. The world at large may enjoy to any extent the fruit of his labors, but it must reward him for the benefits he has conferred upon it. Such reward is not a I gift but the wages of his toil. He has earned, and is therefore entitled to it. The principle upon which copyrights are given to authors is the same. There is, however, a class, who conferring most substantial benefits upon the public, are yet un- j protected in their rights to compel those using the results of their labors to make them an adequate return. We allude to I horticulturists. I That they might no longer be deprived of protection, a com-I mittee of ten were appointed by the Lake Shore Grape Grow- ers Association to draw up and present a memorial to Congress, which was accordingly done in December 1868, praying that letters patent might be granted on new horticultural varieties, and that purchasers of said varieties be allowed to j propagate for their individual use only, during the time of the right granted, and that a gift of plants propagated from said variety by any other excepting the originator, be considered a breach of law similar to that of a sale. This was opposed by Mr. P. Barry, in a letter to the Rural New Yorker, Jan. 9th, 1869, who asserts that by the nature of the case, the originators of new varieties are already suffi- ciently well protected, and that the determination of the pat-i entability of a variety would be impracticable. He asks,; Who would be the judge as to whether an article would be I worthy of a patent ? I have known people to claim old and I well-known fruit as seedlings. I have known instances, I might say by thousands, of people supposing they had produced or discovered a valuable fruit, when, in fact, it was utterly worthless. Now, as Mr. Barry is himself a horticulturist, and has shown by the paragraph j ust quoted that Aeis able to discrim-i inate between good and bad, and old and new, we respectfully i submit that he is himself a competent judge as to whether an article would be worthy of a patent, and we make no doubt that when the United States desires to obtain a competent examiner for this department, numerous applicants equally as well qualified will be forthcoming. Mr. Barry regards it as being in the power of the originator of a valuable species to propagate it at once largely, and thus to secure the benefit of his discovery by large sales at the outset. Now it has often been, within our personal knowledge, that new varieties have been obtained by surreptitious means, and when the originator supposed himself ready to enter the market, after large expense and trouble, he has found himself anticipated by others and his hopes of profit suddenly blasted. Many such men, are unable from lack of means, to widely disseminate a new variety until some unscrupulous and wealthy nurseryman has been able to scour the field, thus robbing him of his reward with perfect impunity. It is also contended that the granting of patents to this class of claimants would retard the introduction of new varieties to some extent, and this is regarded as being a strong argument j against the proposed plan. We admit that the granting of pat- ent rights and copyrights does retard the general seizure and appropriation of the fruits of other mens toil; in this respect it is like the laws imposing penalties for theft, highway rob-j bery, and burglary. As well might a man propose the ex-i purgation of all these laws from our statute books, as to ad- duce such an argument against the justice of protecting a I class of earnest workers who are contributing so much to the J welfare of mankind as horticulturists. People are not generally aware how long and arduously a 1 man must work in this field before he arrives at a result worth perpetuating; what numberless experiments must be peformed; what years of anxious waiting and constant care must elapse before he can hope to secure any reward; what endless and trying disappointments lie between him and the I goal he would reach. I We believe the enactments of the law desired by the petitioners a matter of simple right and justice, and we are pleased to learn that the committee to which the bill was referred has reported favorably upon it. Now let Congress act upon it speedily and put an end to the system of grab, which has hitherto been the course which the public haspur-i sued towards this important and numerous class of bene-j factors. We believe no man uninfluenced by mercenary motives can I view this question in any other light than one of simple and common justice. The stimulus which would be given by such j a law to the origination of choice varieties to take the place tif those which have run out, would be prodigious, and would confer incalculable benefit, not only upon a worthy and industrious class of people but upon the country at large.
This article was originally published with the title "Horticultural Protection" in Scientific American 20, 10, 153 (March 1869)