Pumpkins with warts look pretty weird, and in America (especially at Halloween), weird sells. So last year, the Siegers Seed Co. attempted to corner the market by seeking a broad patent on all pumpkins with warts, even though warty pumpkins have been grown by gardeners for centuries. As heirloom vegetable expert Will Weaver puts it, “This is like trying to patent all trees with twisted limbs.” But Siegers claimed it had “invented” warty pumpkins, and the company threatened to sue any company that tried to sell seeds of warty pumpkins if the patent was granted.
ETC Group, an organization that works to maintain cultural and ecological diversity, immediately sounded the alarm and called on the U.S. Patent Office to “reject all 25 claims of the patent application on warted pumpkins.”
On Feb. 13, 2009, the patent office formally rejected Siegers’ 25 claims on cucurbit warts. This was good news for gardeners and pumpkin growers everywhere. Siegers, however, can still appeal the decision.
The patent was rejected for a number of reasons, including a sloppy application, the prevalence of warts on cucurbits historically, and the fact that warted pumpkin seed has been, and still is, already available from other vendors. (If you want to grow some, search for “warted” or “warty” in our Seed and Plant Finder.)