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” the warty pumpkin, 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. For now the patent controversy is over, but Siegers 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.)
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.