This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Though we have often given reasons for believing that " patents" for new plants are both impolitic and impracticable, it may serve a good purpose to give the following pithy chapter from the New York Weekly Sun, edited by Mr. A. S. Fuller:
" From a pretty close and familiar acquaintance with the various new fruits that have been raised in this country during the past thirty years, we think the originators have received very good prices for them, and in a majority of instances five times their actual value. Nearly all the new grapes have been retailed for the first two or three years, and even longer, after introduction, at from 82 to $5 per vine: strawberries at from $3 to $5, and even $10 a dozen: and new potatoes, like Early Rose, at $100 a bushel, while in one instance, $50 was given for a single tuber. If we remember right, Dr. Grant paid $1,500 for the original vine of the Eumelan grape, and Mrs. Rebecca Peak obtained as much or more for the Rebecca, and we think the most ardent champion of patents in horticuture will admit that these sums were in excess of what the varieties named were worth, except for speculative purposes. We might name scores of similiar instances of exorbitant prices paid to originators of new plants that proved upon propagation and dissemination to be of little or no value.
Really choice and valuable fruits, vegetables, and plants always have commanded and probably always will command good paying prices, but the poor and worthless will scarcely find a market, even if they are patented. We have endeavored to show in former articles that the granting of patents for plants was entirely impracticable, owing to the great rapidity with which some kinds can be propagated; when these are once sent out, the idea of following or collecting a royality is simply ridiculous.
But even this is not the worst feature of this proposed patent scheme, and we would like to have its friends tell us where they are to get a board of examiners to decide whether a fruit or other plant was really a new one or not. Men who have devoted their entire lives to the studying of horticulture are certainly better qualified to pass upon such products than those who do not know one kind of pear or apple from another: and still if we look over the synonyms of nearly every variety that has been in cultivation twenty or more years, it is quite evident that there has been some trouble in getting them properly identified.
Only a half dozen years ago two of our oldest and presumably most learned and experienced pomologists, together with a Professor of Botany, visited Detroit, Michigan, as a special committee to decide upon the merits of the Mexican ever-bearing strawberry, and they not only reported it a new variety, but actually a new species. It was named Fragaria Gilmani, but it subsequently turned out to be the old monthly ever-bearing, red Alpine, which had been cultivated in Europe and this country for nearly a century. A change in the method of culture, in the soil and season produced such an effect upon the plants that they were scarcely recognizable by our most learned experts.
Similar temporary variations occur with all kinds of fruits and plants, and the greatest horticulturist or botanist that ever lived is very likely to be misled by them, and to pronounce old and familiar plants to be new varieties. No such difficulties exist in the identifying of mechanical inventions, or even the principles of mechanics, for the models, drawing, and specifications can be placed on record for future reference".